Niall Mitchell in full flight for Westmeath during yesterday’s Joe McDonagh Cup clash against Meath in Navan. Photo: John McCauley

Hurling: O’Brien ‘delighted’ with first McDonagh Cup win

Fresh from two heavy defeats against Antrim and Kerry, Westmeath senior hurling manager, Shane O’Brien, was understandably relieved with his side’s hard-earned win against Meath in the Joe McDonagh Cup match in Navan yesterday afternoon.

At the outset, the Dubliner stated: “We’re delighted. As I just said to the management team there, I think the last three weeks has been the first time that we’ve had an opportunity to put a bit of work in with the lads.

“I’ve spoken before about the restrictions that we’ve had with regards to the unavailability of players through Covid, injury, and what-not. This is the first time that we’ve actually trained properly as a group since we’ve come back, and we’re delighted to get the win today.”

The visitors had to work very hard to edge out their old rivals, but this was exactly what the winning bainisteoir expected.

“We knew it was going to be touch and go. Meath are a top-class team and we saw where they came within one point of Carlow. We knew that we were in for a right battle today,” he opined.

The maroon and white-clad outfit showed commendable spirit late in the contest and their manager acknowledged this, as follows: “The lads have shown great spirit in training despite all the challenges they have faced. We didn’t publicise the amount of players that have been hit by Covid between close contacts and direct contacts.

“We’ve had a depleted squad and they have demonstrated incredible resolve and resilience. I think the togetherness of the group was shown there today.”

Last weekend’s contest was a ‘dead rubber’ for both participants, and Westmeath and Meath will wrap up their campaigns with home ties against Carlow and Antrim respectively next Saturday.

In this regard, O’Brien looked forward to the visit of the Barrowsiders to TEG Cusack Park by concluding: “This is our pre-season, to be perfectly honest with you. The work that we have put in during the last three weeks has been heavy grafting.

“We’re just grateful that we have these games and to be able to get away from what’s happening around the world. We are blessed to be able to get out and hurl.”

– Gerry Buckley