Westmeath’s best start to a Gaelic games season for many a long year concluded today with the county’s senior hurlers adding the Kehoe Cup to the O’Byrne Cup won by the senior footballers in Parnell Park last night.
Jack Cooney and Joe Quaid, the Lake County’s new football and hurling managers respectively, achieved what they set out to do when the Bord na Móna series kicked off last month – getting some silverware in the bag as a much needed fillip ahead of the league and championship campaigns.
The footballers saw off Dublin at the Metropolitans’ Donnycarney headquarters last night, with 1-5 from the outstanding Ger Egan getting Westmeath over the line for the county’s first O’Byrne Cup win in 31 years.
Former Ballinagore footballer Tommy McDaniel, now plying his club trade in Dublin, also contributed 0-3 as Jack Cooney’s troops overcame what was, admittedly, a Dublin ‘C’ selection.
This is not to play down what was, overall, an encouraging campaign from the men in maroon either side of Christmas. They stayed the course without the services of marquee forward John Heslin, and along the way, some new talents emerged. And at the final hurdle, going to Dublin with a combination of experienced and inexperienced players and denying the hosts some silverware was an achievement in and of itself.
“The thing about it is that expectations will obviously increase but we have no problem dealing with expectations to make progress,” Cooney said after the final whistle, looking ahead to the start of the Allianz National Football League.
“Dublin were very motivated to win tonight. Lads want to try and make the Dublin panel for the league and championship. We were motivated in different ways as well. We just want to improve and progress.
“The win will shorten the journey home for sure. It’s nice to get a bit of silverware in January and I’m delighted for the lads, but we weren’t going to make a big thing out of it if we won or lost. It is all about the league now.”
Meanwhile, earlier today in Abbottstown, Joe Quaid’s senior hurlers overcame Antrim 3-0 in a novel penalty shootout after the sides drew the Bord na Móna Kehoe Cup decider on a score of 2-20 to 1-23.
Westmeath, who competed throughout, looked dead in the water with three minutes to go when the Glensmen led 1-23 to 1-18, with a second half goal from Nigel Elliot doing giving Antrim the edge.
However, Allan Devine’s late goal for the Maroons – a second for the Castlepollard clubman – clawed them back into the game, with points from Darragh Clinton and Killian Doyle levelling matters.
Doyle, Devine and Clonkill’s Niall Mitchell then converted the successful penalties to ensure that captain Tommy Doyle got his hands on the cup.
Of paramount importance to Quaid and his men will be getting out of Division 2A of the NHL, which begins at the end of the month.
“I am not overly enamoured with the display we put in but it’s nice to win a trophy,” Quaid said today, after his side’s success. “We looked dead and buried with two or three minutes to go.
“The most pleasing aspect of this is that we used so many subs and each one that came on made a massive contribution. That’s what we are about at the moment, trying to build a panel.
“It was proven today that a panel is invaluable. It was men against men out there. It was manly stuff and some big hits went in, and I was delighted the way our lads stood up.”
In another Westmeath connection to the conclusion of the Bord na Móna series, long-serving Lake County GAA administrator Pat Lynagh (Kilbeggan Shamrocks) – now the treasurer of Leinster Council – had the honour of presenting both the O’Byrne and Kehoe Cups to the respective Westmeath teams, on behalf of the provincial body.