Successful conclusion to competitive season is the aspiration for Westmeath senior footballers

Cavan certain to prove stern Tailteann Cup final opposition

A competitive season which commenced with a National Football League Division 3 victory over Wicklow in January will culminate in the surrounds of Croke Park on Saturday evening as Westmeath aim to become the inaugural winners of the Tailteann Cup.

Obviously not within the radar of team management and the playing squad at the start of the calendar year, promotion to National Football League Division 2 being the original goal, Westmeath have truly merited their place in the Tailteann Cup final, minds clearly refocused following the team’s exit from the Leinster senior football championship.

Having narrowly missed out on their promotion goal, defeats to Longford and Louth hampering aspirations, Westmeath turned their attentions towards the provincial championship in the knowledge that Sam Maguire status could only be attained should a place in the provincial final be secured.

Despite being highly competitive over the duration of a closely contested semi-final fixture, Kildare ended the Lake County’s Leinster championship campaign, but despite this loss, team manager, Jack Cooney, assured the wealth of Westmeath supporters that his charges would now refocus their minds, winning the Tailteann Cup now their primary task.

The team’s performances have most certainly improved since the competition commenced in late May, Westmeath journeying to Laois and departing O’Moore Park with a three point victory, a goal from arguably the team’s player of the season, Sam McCartan, proving crucial in achieving the final result.

The team were in travel mode once again for the quarter final, Dr Cullen Park in Carlow being the venue for a five point win over the hosts. Westmeath were in control for the majority of this contest, talisman John Heslin who has been particularly prolific during the Tailteann Cup campaign, being the scorer in chief as a place in the semi-final was secured.

The final four draw realised the prospect of a salivatory semi-final draw with Offaly and fresh from their All-Ireland Under 20 football success, it was expected that the Faithful County would definitely provide cause for much in game competitiveness as the Tailteann Cup returned to Croke Park.

Westmeath certainly quelled Offaly enthusiasm from the throw in and a team performance laden with fluidity of movement, commitment and skill levels of the highest calibre ensured the Lake County dominated proceedings, rightfully earning a Tailteann Cup final berth with a wholly convincing nine point success.

Arguably, the team’s most complete championship performance to date, Jack Cooney and his backroom team, featuring Westmeath All-Star footballers, John Keane and Dessie Dolan, will be hoping such a performance is replicated and enhanced as the maroon and white seek their first major silverware since the Leinster senior football championship success in 2004.

Now in their seventh successive month playing competitive football, the team continue to gel, management content to choose a similar starting 15 players for each game proving beneficial to the Tailteann Cup cause. In game substitutions have also positively impacted, notably the point contributions of Alex Gardiner and Robbie Forde when they were introduced to the semi-final playing fray.

The Westmeath colours are a most welcome sight as supporters don their surroundings in the maroon and white and while the Tailteann Cup was not the desired outcome for this ever improving team at the start of the calendar year, should this prized silverware be annexed on Saturday evening, it will be well received as it crosses the county boundary en route from Croke Park and allowing for the recent pandemic past, the moment will be cherished and remembered.



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