Members of Westmeath’s 2021 Joe McDonagh Cup-winning senior hurling side.

Medals galore to be presented at grand Westmeath GAA banquet

It promises to be a night like no other, in fact, it is guaranteed to be a night like no other when the Westmeath GAA community assemble in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Friday 2 December for the Westmeath Medal Presentation Banquet.

Players, club representatives, officers of the County Committee, sponsors and invited guests come together in a unique night of celebration and recognition of the recent achievements of our hurlers and footballers. It all kicks off at 7pm.

In the region of 250 hurling medals and 200 football medals will be presented to over 200 players including 85 hurlers and 120 footballers.

An incredible sixteen sets of medals are due to be presented dating back to 2008 when Westmeath beat Dublin (0-15 to 0-10) in the National Football League Division 2 Final in Navan on April 26. Pride of place on the night will go to the McDonagh Cup winning team of 2021 and the history making Tailteann Cup champion team of 2022. Football league medals for 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019 will also be presented.

In 2011 Westmeath were defeated in the NFL Division 3 Final by Louth and in the 2013, Division 2 Final by Derry. This defeat ended the losing streak in finals and in 2017 Westmeath defeated Wexford in the Division 4 final and followed this by winning the Division 3 title in 2019 where Laois were the final victims.

Another set of football medals for presentation are the 2019 O’Byrne Cup medals when a Killian Daly-captained Westmeath team defeated Dublin in Parnell Park (1-12 to 0-10) to win the cup for the first time since 1998.

It will be a night of celebration mixed with nostalgia as the 2008 NFL victory over Dublin featured many of the stars of the Leinster title winning team of 2004. Those were the days when Westmeath had no fears about challenging the yet-to-be-mighty Dubs since the great second round Leinster championship victory over the Metropolitans in 2004. No doubt memories of these Champagne days will be recalled in the superb setting of the Mullingar Park Hotel.

In 2008, the Westmeath team lined out as follows: Gary Connaughton; Frank Boyle, Kieran Gavin, John Keane; Michael Ennis (0-1), Derek Heavin, Damien Healy; Martin Flanagan (0-2), Dónal O’Donoghue; Fergal Wilson (0-4), John Smyth (0-1), Doran Harte; Alan Mangan (0-2), Denis Glennon (0-2) and Dermot Bannon (0-3). Dessie Dolan replaced Alan Mangan during the second half. The Dublin team included Darren Magee, the current Westmeath Games Promotion Officer, and Jason Sherlock, the most recent addition to Dessie Dolan’s management team.

It will be an even greater night of celebration for the hurling community as nine sets of medals have been assembled for presentation with the McDonagh Cup medals of 2021 topping the list. Celebrations of this hurling milestone victory were curtailed by the dreaded Covid virus.

This final victory over Kerry was one of the most significant in the history of Westmeath hurling as it opened the gateway to the county’s present high standing in the hurling world which was sealed in April with the great National Hurling League Division 2 final over Down in Thurles. This victory secured Westmeath’s place in the National Hurling League Division 1 and a victory over Laois later in the season guaranteed the county a place in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship. It doesn’t get any better as the county hurlers are now firmly seated at the sport’s top table.

Two sets of runner-up medals for the Joe McDonagh Cup finals of 2018 and 2019 form part of the presentation agenda. In addition, two sets of Keogh Cup winners medals for 2019 and 2022 as well as National Hurling League medals for 2013 (runners-up to Laois in Division 2A), 2018 (runners-up to Carlow in Division 2A) , 2019 (defeated Kerry in Division 2A final), and the above mentioned 2022 League are packed and ready to go.

Players will walk out of the Mullingar Park Hotel with some of the greatest collections of inter-county medals ever assembled by a Westmeath player. Brendan Murtagh and Cormac Boyle are dual medallists; Tommy Doyle and Derek McNicholas have nine medals to collect.

The delay in presenting the medals is not to the credit of the Westmeath County Committee or Executive but as County Chairman, Frank Mescall likes to say “History cannot be undone”. One of the great plusses of the delayed presentation is that on the evening of December 2, 2022, the greatest collection of talented Westmeath hurlers and footballers ever assembled at a single venue will congregate at the Mullingar Park Hotel.

And when the formalities are completed, the five-piece twisted trad band Ruaile Buaile will ensure that the party continues on a lively note with their programme of upbeat old Irish favourites, ground trumping trad, and their unique twists on recent day classics.