Saturday 16 December 2017

Garry got goods to roll 'rock



(Cusack Park, Tomorrow 3.30)

THE noughties will be recalled (fondly? wistfully?) as Westmeath's best ever decade at senior level. There can be no argument either about Westmeath's club of the noughties -- that honour belongs to Garrycastle.

The boys from the Athlone 'burbs won four SFC titles, starting with their maiden triumph in 2001 and culminating in last year's success. They lost another two finals and also reached last year's Leinster club decider, eventually faltering to Portlaoise.

Given all the above, their favouritism to retain the Flanagan Cup is no surprise. Mullingar Shamrocks, chasing their first title since 2000, simply can't boast the same experience or depth of inter-county pedigree.

A foregone conclusion, then? Anything but. Shamrocks have been transformed this season under the wily command of Ray Smyth and booked their semi-final passage with a 0-11 to 0-6 victory over the (albeit understrength) holders in their final group game.

Since then, Garrycastle were convincing five-point winners over Athlone at the quarter-final stage but then needed a storming second-half fightback (and three goals) to overcome Killucan's five-point interval lead. On the same day, Cian O'Leary's two-goal salvo saw off The Downs and he'll require special watching by the Castle defence, but Dessie Dolan & Co still look a safer bet.

ODDS: Garrycastle 4/9, Draw 15/2, Shamrocks 21/10

VERDICT: Garrycastle



(Aughrim, Tomorrow 3.45)

THE more things change, the more they stay the same. Rathnew and Baltinglass are obviously recession-proof as the twin powers of Wicklow football have made it back to another final.

The last time these sides clashed in a final, 2007, Balto prevailed. The last time they met in championship combat, last year's semi-final, a Leighton Glynn-inspired Rathnew ran out seven-point winners.

The challengers look to have upped their game this season, based on their five-point semi-final win over St Patrick's. Still, with the veteran Tommy Gill in prolific form, Rathnew eased past Blessington in the semis and, while no sure thing, are favoured to retain their title.

ODDS: Rathnew 2/5, Draw 8/1, Baltinglass 11/5

VERDICT: Rathnew



(Wexford Park, Tomorrow 3.30)

CASTLETOWN secured their ninth Wexford crown in 1981. It's been a long wait to reach double figures, their most recent final defeat coming in 2006.

The secret to achieving that elusive goal? The glib answer would seem stop Matty Forde, who has tallied 0-31 in Kilanerin's run to the final, including 0-6 (3f) as they overcame St Anne's by five points at the penultimate stage. Castletown had seven points to spare over Adamstown in their semi and may have a greater spread of scoring options, but the enduring class of Forde and the greater experience of the 2008 champions may just swing a marginal contest.

ODDS: Castletown 11/8, Draw 13/2, Kilanerin 8/11

VERDICT: Kilanerin

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