Eoghan Ahearn, Raharney, strikes for goal in Sunday's victory over Lough Lene Gaels.

Raharney and Clonkill set up exciting hurling finale

Raharney and Castletown Geoghegan have assumed control at the top of the Westmeath senior ‘A’ hurling championship table following impressive victories last weekend.

A goal from Eoghan Ahearn was key in the second half, giving Raharney a nine-point advantage over Lough Lene Gaels and they pulled clear in decisive fashion, winning by 2-21 to 2-14.

“We did a few good things, but we still have a lot to work on. We wouldn’t call it an easy win; we worked hard at key times against a Gaels team that didn’t have their best day. We let in a very soft goal and we came back into it then with four or five points. I think that was the turning point,” said manager Ger Flanagan afterwards.

“I didn’t feel the breeze was a factor. It was more gusty and across the pitch, so we convinced the lads that the wind wasn’t going to be a factory for the second half: ‘we have quality and if we use the ball the way we can, hitting to our space and to our hand, we should be able to finish the game’.

“We got three nice replies to that Gaels goal and our unsung heroes stood up and took the scores for us. Eoin Ahearn got two quality goals and they were needed at those stages: the Gaels were starting to use the ball a bit better around midfield and those two goals knocked the stuffing out of them.”

He was impressed with the cohesion shown in defence and feels his panel is now getting stronger ahead of the crucial final round, in which they face Clonkill.

“The full back line was immense; they came out with high ball after high ball. When Jamie (Mulkearns) is playing there, he really transforms our team; he gives us that air of confidence. He has a bright future. Conor McKeogh – we said we'd try him in the corner today with Jamie, and it kind of helped his game, too. He caught some magnificent ball. And Darren Finn just seemed to win everything on the ground and used it well.

“With everyone back fully fit, we have a bench now and we can bring on five good subs that are as good as the lads playing, which makes it harder to pick the team fairly going forward.”

He’s fully aware that Clonkill will pose a big threat in the last round.

“Clonkill, like ourselves, have been building since the first game. We have both built momentum and it should be a great battle in two weeks’ time. We’ll try and get another win on the board and I’m sure we could meet Clonkill again. There are a lot of good teams there: we could see the Gaels again, and Castletown Geoghegan. But we have to aim for a win the next day to guarantee us getting through, so we’ll focus on the next four weeks in training.”

Flanagan is conscious that dual players have a big game in the senior football championship next Sunday and he’s hoping they come through unscathed.

Elsewhere, Clonkill produced an impressive performance to overwhelm Fr Dalton’s on Sunday, winning in the end by 33 points, 8-17 to 1-5.

Manager Frank Aughey said the big test will come in the final round against Raharney, but he is confident his side will respond.

“If you can’t get up for a game against Raharney, there’s no point in getting up at all. We’re not getting carried away, our players are no fools; there was no back slapping afterwards. We realise that a huge challenge awaits in the last round,” he said.

“We went long at times and got the goals today, which was the difference. It worked out for us. But winning games by such a margin doesn’t really do anything for a team. We will just take the two points and move on to the next game.”

Aughey said there is no confirmation regarding the possible return of leading forward Niall Mitchell.

“We’re not sure if he will return and he is a big loss. Take any of the top players out of any of the teams and there’s a gap. But our players are stepping up well. We had Josh Murtagh back in today, for example, and he is one of the players to step up. But it’s an ever bigger step up the next day.”

Elsewhere, in the senior ‘B’ championship, St Oliver Plunkett’s and Crookedwood lead the way after the weekend, while St Brigid’s and Southern Gaels are top of the intermediate table.