Westport enjoying Connacht adventure
By Cian O’Connell
It has been a hectic spell for Westport GAA - winning the Mayo Intermediate Football Championship is the highlight so far, while the opening of the new clubhouse carried deep importance too.
Lee Keegan’s fourth GAA/GPA Opel All Star and his Footballer of the Year award capped another memorable campaign for the proud Westportman, who will be a key figure for his club against Ballinamore in Sunday’s Connacht Intermediate Football Final at Pairc Sean MacDiarmada.
"It has been a fantastic year in all the different sections of the club,” Chairman Austin Groden tells GAA.ie. “The underage has been going very well and we also have the Ladies and Camogie. We have a huge club, with a huge membership so we are all pulling very well together. Between everyone we would have between 800 and 900.
“Winning the Intermediate Championship was a boost, we were disappointed last Sunday because we could have went up to Division One in the League. We got caught by two late goals in a game against Burrishoole so we will have to play Division Two again next year. It would have been great to go up in the League as well, but it wasn't to be.”
Groden is adamant that the development of facilities by the Westport GAA club has aided them hugely during the past decade. “It has been a good time for the club, I think it dates back to opening the clubhouse and the buzz around last April,” Groden says. “It gave everyone a pep in their step, people are extra proud of the club and the facilities. It is showing off the field as well as on.
“You have to try to give people the best you can, in Westport you have two other big clubs really, Westport United and Westport Rugby. We are competing with them for players, we have huge facilities and we can train all winter now with our astroturf and we have our new clubhouse. For the last year our younger teams were able to do strength and conditioning work in the new clubhouse so it has been going non stop.”
Westport have invested time and effort preparing juvenile teams recently according to Groden. “It is great to have the facilities to keep the young lads together all year, it keeps them going.
“It keeps them concentrating on the Gaelic, the skills levels of our players in the underage is good. We are playing lovely, attractive football and we are trying to improve all of the time. I think it is from constantly being at it, the coaching on the astroturf and everything.
“All of our teams compete in A and this year our B teams won as well. It is very important, at minor level we won the Division 1 Minor A and we won the West Mayo A. Our minor B won the League and Championship in D so that was fantastic.”
Inevitably the classy Mayo star Keegan is celebrated by everyone involved with Westport. “It is fantastic,” Groden remarks about how Westport have helped to produce such a talented performer.
“To have a four time All Star is one thing, but to have the Footballer of the Year is a fantastic achievement. Lee is an icon around the place, he is a pure gentleman, he is great for the club. He is a great ambassador for the club and for the town.”
This weekend Westport travel to Carrick-on-Shannon hoping to earn Connacht glory. Six years ago at the same stage Galway’s Naomh Anna, Leitir Mor defeated Westport following an extra-time thriller at Tuam Stadium. “It is great, you are sitting back watching the Mitchels, Hollymount, Ardnaree getting good runs in the Club Championship,” Groden says about Westport’s Connacht adventure.
“It is great that this year is our turn, we hope to win a Connacht title on Sunday. In 2009 when we won the Intermediate last in Mayo we lost out in extra-time in the Connacht Final. I think that it still hurts some of the lads so Sunday is a chance to put that right, to try to bring a Connacht title to the club.”