SFC final: ‘It’s going to be a huge battle’
When the multi-decorated dual star Paddy Dowdall spoke to the Westmeath Examiner last Thursday afternoon his immediate priority was his Defence Forces duty to help combat the effects of Storm Lorenzo.
The Clonkill and St Loman’s, Mullingar maestro has two potential on-field storms facing him over the next two weekends, with Kevin O’Brien’s troops facing Castletown-Geoghegan on Sunday week in a battle for the Westmeath Examiner Cup.
Remarkably, the former Westmeath hurler will be going for his 12th and 13th senior county medals.
However, Dowdall’s current focus is on the big ball game next Sunday in TEG Cusack Park with Luke Dempsey attempting to outsmart one of his former Lake County protégés, Gary Dolan, when the destination of the Flanagan Cup is decided for the next 12 months – barring a far-from-unlikely draw.
Dowdall, despite turning 37 two days ago, remains a crucial member of both the St Loman’s and Clonkill defences. With both of those teams perennially challenging for the blue riband honour in both codes for many years now, he is invariably a busy man come the latter stages of club action in Westmeath.
However, his recent activity has been curtailed somewhat by a hip flexor injury. He explained: “I aggravated it in the Crookedwood (hurling) game and I came off. Then it lingered into The Downs (football) match and I came off again. Luckily enough, it held up for Raharney game (the senior hurling championship semi-final).
“I had a lot of treatment on it and I am hoping to be okay for the Garrycastle match. In recent years, it has been a case of working with both managers and communicating with them about my availability to train with one or the other.
“The St Loman’s team has changed in the past few years. We have lost a lot of experience in that time, but this year there is more youth on the team which brings great energy to the side. It has been a breath of fresh air.
“Luke (Dempsey) has tried to blend the experienced and inexperienced players. Throwing young lads into championship battles helps them to learn a lot, and they have stood up to the task all year,” he added.
Looking ahead specifically to next Sunday’s final, Dowdall opined: “Garrycastle were a top team when I started out in football. They were always one of main teams in the championship, and they still are now.
“They have some players still around from that golden period. Like ourselves, they have a lot of new faces but they also have a wealth of experience.”
Indeed, the likely presence of the Garrycastle manager’s famous brother, Dessie Dolan, either as a starter in the green and red colours or as an impact sub, ensures that Dowdall will be three years younger than the oldest player on view!
“I was at their semi-final against (Mullingar) Shamrocks. It was the very same as ours (against The Downs). They were both played in bad weather and I don’t think you could take a lot from both games because of the weather. Both ourselves and Garrycastle battled our way to victory,” he added.
“That bit of experience probably brought the two teams through, but it was young players who got the crucial goals – Sean Flanagan and Eoin Monaghan. We got our goal at the right time when we under a bit of pressure at the time.”
Dowdall, who watched on proudly in recent months as his talented daughter Megan played a massive role in Westmeath’s garnering of the prestigious Jack McGrath Cup in camogie, concluded succinctly: “Next Sunday is going to be a huge battle and, hopefully, we can come through.”