Joey Boyle, Raharney, chased by Oisín Loughlin, Clonkill, in Sunday's Westmeath SHC 'A' encounter.

Flanagan satisfied direct route to final is an advantage

Raharney showed all their experience and class to qualify for the Westmeath senior hurling final with a decisive victory over Clonkill at TEG Cusack Park on Sunday.

Manager Ger Flanagan was pleased with how his players grew into the game and they will now take stock, recover and prepare for one final push in four weeks’ time against either Castletown Geoghegan or Lough Lene Gaels. He feels securing a direct route to the county final is an advantage.

“We’ll just prepare: there are no weak teams left in this championship and we know that. We will have to do our thing and try to produce our best performance. We have to look after our game and get our heads and our hurling right. Once we know our final opponents, we will prepare accordingly,” said Flanagan.

“It is an advantage; we can recuperate more than anything and get our bodies right and then prepare hard for three weeks.”

Raharney realise they have to improve on their conversion rate if they’re to win back the Westmeath Examiner Cup for the second time in three seasons.

“We were very disappointed with our shooting (first half): we had 21 chances and got seven scores. We had 11 wides and dropped three or four into the ‘keeper’s hand. You’re better off hitting a wide than dropping the ball into a good keeper's hand: they set up many attacks from our wastefulness,” observed Flanagan, whose side may yet face defending champions Castletown Geoghegan in the decider.

“We’re very happy with getting through to the final, but we do have a lot to work on in the next four weeks.”

Collective resolve was the key to victory, Flanagan felt.

“It was more a team effort rather than any individual that won it for us in the second half. At half-time we weren’t really very pleased. Our work rate wasn’t there; they had won the battle around midfield and we were too static. We just didn’t use the ball well enough, he observed.

"We’re working on that in training, we have some serious hurlers, but you won’t beat any team on your own. That’s what we’re drilling into them. There are players making runs and we have to see them. We have the hurlers, but we just have to play as a team.

“In the second half we got a handle on the game around midfield, got our bodies to the breaks and our hurling came through in the end.”

The defensive exploits of young full back Jamie Mulkearns really impressed Flanagan, who felt his side's greater cohesion and disciplined approach were vital tools in the second half.

"Jamie Mulkearns had an unbelievable game at full back, for a young player marking a man of Brendan Murtagh’s experience. He handled it very well. Our full back line was very good and our half back line was very solid. Gary Greville was outstanding," the manager remarked.

"We have worked hard on our discipline: we’re not focused on the decision the referee is making, or something that’s going against us. We’re working better as a unit. There are lots of positives, but we realise there’s a lot to work on to get over the line in the final."