Westmeath’s camogie stars target big run
She has twice tasted success with her county at Croke Park in the past and Fiona Keating believes Westmeath are more than capable of doing so again in this year’s All-Ireland intermediate camogie championship.
Back in 2017, Keating was between the sticks as the Midlanders recorded a 1-10 to 1-6 triumph over Dublin at GAA HQ to secure an All-Ireland junior crown. Just two years later, the Cullion star once again donned the number one jersey to help the Lake County claim top intermediate honours at the expense of Galway. They subsequently returned to the second-tier in 2022 following two seasons in the senior championship and while they had to look on last year as Galway and Cork played out an intermediate decider on August 7, Keating is extremely hopeful in advance of their 2023 campaign.
“We’re more than capable of getting to Croke Park in August and that is definitely our target. We know that we can play at a senior level and we know that it’s going to be a very tough intermediate championship coming up. Our target is Croke Park and next week is where it starts,” Keating acknowledged at a championship launch in the Croke Park Hotel last Friday.
Westmeath will certainly be looking to hit the ground running this Saturday, when they play host to Kerry on the opening weekend in the All-Ireland intermediate championship. This will be followed by a trip to Leinster rivals Laois a fortnight later (June 10), before their Group Three campaign concludes with another home game against neighbours Meath on June 24.
Diarmuid Cahill’s charges won’t exactly be going in cold to these encounters, given the Lake County played all three teams over the course of their journey through Division 2A of the Very Camogie Leagues.
Having shared the spoils with Kerry at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney on February 18 (1-6 to 0-9), they lost out to Meath in Trim on a scoreline of 2-13 to 1-6, before registering an impressive 1-13 to 1-5 win over Laois at Raharney on March 18.
“In the league, our manager Diarmuid, he played a lot of players throughout the league and we had different teams out every week. It kind of gave us a good idea of where we’re at and we learnt a lot from the games that we played against Laois, Kerry and Meath. We’re going to try and put all those learnings together and put in a good performance against Kerry to start off.”
Although their status in the All-Ireland series is that of an intermediate side, Westmeath did compete in this year’s Leinster senior camogie championship. After overcoming the challenge of fellow Midlands outfit Offaly, they took on defending All-Ireland senior champions Kilkenny in the last-four of the eastern province at TEG Cusack Park on May 6.
Despite suffering a heavy reversal in the end to The Cats, Keating (who didn’t feature in the Kilkenny game) was pleased to see Westmeath mixing it with two teams who are currently operating at the highest level of camogie.
“It was great to be in the senior Leinster. It just gives us that extra bit of a challenge. It’s where we want to be. We know there is a bit of a way to go for us. We’ve a bit of development still to do, but it was great again to play Offaly and get that win.
“Then going on to Kilkenny, we never gave up that day. We definitely took a lot from that game as well to move into championship,” Keating added.