A first Leinster senior club title heading to Westmeath or can Dublin’s dominance extend to a fifth title in seven years? That is but one of the intriguing questions facing followers of the finalists heading for O’Connor Park in Tullamore (2.00pm) when the 2011 AIB GAA provincial club championships draw to a close.
Whatever the outcome an exciting game seems certain as St.Brigid’s (Dublin) and Garrycastle (Westmeath) battle it out for the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club title – the last of the provincial titles to be decided.
Who will join Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh), Dr Crokes (Kerry) and St. Brigid’s (Roscommon) in the semi-finals?
Westmeath is hoping for its first ever Leinster club crown since Athlone (1971), The Downs (1972), Tyrrellspass (2007) and Garrycastle (2009) were all beaten in finals and now Garrycastle are back for a second attempt. They lost to Portlaoise by 1-9 to 1-5 two years ago.
Coached by new Galway hurling manager, Anthony Cunningham, they will be hoping to finally end Westmeath’s barren run in the Leinster championship. Cunningham has already experienced provincial success, having guided St. Brigid’s (Roscommon) to the Connacht title in 2006.
The vastly experienced Dessie Dolan is a key figure for Garrycastle for whom Doran Harte, James Dolan, Gary Dolan and former Westmeath star, David O’Shaughnessy have been most impressive. They achieved a third successive Westmeath Flanagan Cup title against Mullingar Shamrocks after a replay before going on to defeat Longford Slashers and Athy en route to Sunday’s final.
St.Brigid’s, jointly managed by former Meath star, Gerry McEntee and Mark Byrne, have inspirational performers in Barry Cahill, Paddy Andrews, Ken Darcy, Sean Murray and Philly Ryan as well as Laois star, John O’Loughlin.
St.Brigid’s (Roscommon) await the winners in the All-Ireland semi-final in February, opening up the intriguing possibility of a
St.Brigid’s v St.Brigid’s clash!
THE ROAD TO TULLAMORE:
Quarter-final: St.Brigid’s 1-20 Horeswood (Wexford) 3-8
Horeswood hit St.Brigid’s for three first half goals to lead by 3-2 to
0-8 at the break but St.Brigid’s out-scored their rivals by 1-12 to
0-6 in a very impressive second half performance. Philly Ryan scored
0-6, Paddy Andrews 1-3 and Ken Kilmurray (0-4) for the impressive
Dublin champions in what was their seventh game in eight weeks.
Semi-final: St.Brigid’s 2-16 Portlaoise (Laois) 1-15 (after extra-time)
It took extra time to separate two outstanding teams before
St.Brigid’s finally pulled away to put four points between the teams
at the end of a great clash. Paddy Andrews continued his productive
run, scoring 1-4 while Ken Darcy (0-4) and Philly Ryan (1-0) also did
well in attach.
Quarter-final: Garrycastle 4-11 Longford Slashers 1-6
James Dolan scored 2-1 for Garrycastle as they beat Longford Slashers
for a second successive year. It was much easier than in 2010 as
Garrycastle powered to victory. Dessie Dolan scored 0-3, James Duignan
1-1 and Alan Daly 1-0 for the impressive Westmeath champions.
Semi-final: Garrycastle 1-10 Athy (Kildare) 1-6
The Dolan brothers Dessie (1-4) and Gary (1-0) and cousin James (0-2)
were in fine form for Garrycastle as they booked a place in the final,
thanks to an enterprising performance where they were especially
effective in the final ten minutes. It was level after fifty minutes
but Garrycastle out-scored their rivals by 1-1 to 0-0 from there on.
Whilst most neutrals would love to see a Garrycastle victory which no one
would surely begrudge them, the head says St Brigid’s with Cahill, Andrews and
Ryan to the fore, albeit by the narrowest of margins.