Doyle still delivering for Westmeath
By Michael Devlin
Westmeath captain Tommy Doyle is out to settle the score with Carlow in Croke Park on Sunday.
The Lough Lene Gaels clubman will lead his side into battle in the Joe McDonagh Cup final, hoping to gain revenge for the Allianz Hurling League League Division 2A final defeat at the hands of the Barrowsiders back in March.
It was back in January that Westmeath and Carlow first met in 2018, with midlanders running out 0-19 to 0-15 winners in the league opener in Netwatch Cullen Park that day.
Since then though Colm Bonnar’s men have come out on top on the past two occasions, that League final win and a 3-21 to 1-21 victory in the Joe McDonagh Cup group stage three weeks ago, and it’s the former that still rankles with full-back Doyle.
“We’ve had great battles," Doyle admits. "Even probably even score for over the last four or five years, there’s never too much between it. We enjoy playing those big games."
“The League final was very disappointing, and we said the week after that game in our first session back, it wasn’t good enough.
“Carlow going into that final, they’d lost two previous finals, it maybe gave them the edge and bit of hunger that we didn’t match that day. They fully deserved to win.”
Last year Westmeath won many admirers for their spirited display against the then reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the All-Ireland qualifiers. They only trailed the Premier County by three points with 52 minutes gone at Semple Stadium, and only a late rally and a John McGrath goal saved Tipp’s blushes, running out 2-18 to 0-15 victors in the end.
In that match, number three Doyle was imperious, keeping Seamus Callanan scoreless from play with the Tipperary talisman being called ashore in the 45th minute.
“The Tipperary game, there was nothing expected of us, we played it without pressure,” said Doyle.
“I just love being involved in those big games. Win, lose or draw on Sunday, we’re going to have a big game after that. We’re looking forward to both games just as much, but it’s great to be involved.
“You always want to come up against the best, see how good you are or how far away you are. I had one good game that day, but it won’t save your season. We need plenty more of them from more of our players.”
Westmeath’s interest in the All-Ireland Football Championship ended early with an 11-point defeat to Armagh in round one of the qualifiers three weeks ago.
Doyle and his teammates, however, have the chance to make it a memorable year for the county, and he is hoping the Westmeath faithful turn out in their numbers to make it a “great occasion” at Croke Park on Sunday.
“If you’re a Westmeath man you support Westmeath, I don’t think there’s any doubting that. The footballers hadn’t a great year, but I remember when they were in two Leinster finals, and they were great occasions to be involved in at Croke Park. Beating Meath a few years ago as well, the people in the stand were great. You’d expect that anyway from Westmeath supporters, they’re Westmeath through-and-through.
“It’s great to be in Croke Park again, and hopefully there’s a great crowd with us.”