|Nickname(s):||The Lake County|
|County colours:||Maroon and white|
|Ground(s):||Cusack Park, Mullingar|
|Dominant sport:||Gaelic Football|
|Football Championship:||Sam Maguire Cup|
|Hurling Championship:||Christy Ring Cup|
|Ladies' Gaelic football:||Brendan Martin Cup|
|Camogie:||Nancy Murray Cup|
The Westmeath County Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Coiste Chontae na hIarmhí) or Westmeath GAA is one of the 32 county boards of the GAA in Ireland, and is responsible for Gaelic games in County Westmeath. The county board is also responsible for the Westmeath inter-county teams.
Westmeath's history is one of a small downtrodden county which as very recently risen to the top of Gaelic football. 2004 marked the pinnacle of resurance in the county's fortunes, which had its roots in the 1995 All-Ireland Minor winning team managed by Luke Dempsey. Dempsey then went on to lead an almost completely different team to the 1999 All-Ireland Under-21 Football Championship.
Although Westmeath had never previously won a Senior Provincial Championship prior to 2004 they did compete in an All-Ireland semi-final. Athlone T P O'Connors, who represented Westmeath in the 1890 Leinster Championship, entered the 1891 All-Ireland semi-final as Connacht champions, representing Roscommon! They walked off the field when Dublin were leading 1-7 to 1-0, claiming one of the Dubliners had struck an Athlone player. Another generation of Westmeath players took part in the first week-night fixture in the GAA championship: on June 20 1935 they played Meath in Kells and lost by 2-7 to 0-9. The footballers won the 1929 junior championship, lost to Dublin by ten points in 1960 and then beat Dublin to reach the 1931 Leinster final. They beat Carlow, Laois and Offaly to go into a 1949 final against Meath, but were well beaten on both occasions. Twenty years later they reached the National Football League semi-final. Westmeath beat Dublin again in the 1967 Championship and the 1984 Centenary Cup campaign and qualified for their second League semi-final in 1994.
In 2001 the team went on an All-Ireland journey through an unheralded 9 games including a memorable extra time win over hotly fancied Mayo in Roscommon, this team was inspired by Ger Heavin who was playing probably the best football of his life in his twilight years of his inter-county career. Dessie Dolan was fulfilling the promise that he had shown as an under age player. Rory O Connell was starting to become one of he best midfielders in the country. The defence was backboned by Damien Healy and David Mitchell with other players to star from time to time including Martin Flanaghan, Fergal Wilson, Paul Conway, David O Shaughnessy and Fergal Murray., Finally and painfully Westmeath lost out to Meath in an All-Ireland Quarter Final Replay - this despite being 9 points clear of Meath at half time in the original game, the loss was made worse by the fact that Westmeath has never beaten Meath in the championship. Disappointing 2002 and 2003 seasons followed and Westmeath parted terms with Dempsey.
In a shocking development Kerry footballing legend Páidí Ó Sé was parachuted in to manage the senior team some months later after he had been removed from the Kerry Senior team management. In the following year of 2004 Westmeath won their first ever Leinster senior football title with a replayed victory over Laois (having previously beaten Wexford, Dublin and Offaly). However the team tamely exitted their second All-Ireland Quarter Final - losing to Derry.
Ó Sé quit Westmeath at the end of a very poor 2005 season and was replaced by his assistant Tomás Ó Flatharta. After a poor league campaign, in which they were quite lucky to be promoted from Division 2, the team was easily knocked out of the Leinster Senior Football Championship in the first round by Offaly and another bad year beckoned.
However wins over London, Limerick, Sligo and then a historic defeat of Galway in Pearse Park in Salthill set up a third All-Ireland Quarter Final for the team in six years - this time against Dublin. Westmeath didn't live up to expectations in the Quarter Final meeting against Dublin and lost by 10 points. In the Quarter-Finals of the Leinster Championship in 2009 they were beaten by Dublin by 27 points. Ó Flatharta resigned as Westmeath manager after their defeat to neighbours Meath on the 11th July 2009
Seamus Whelan wrote himself into the Westmeath GAA history books in serving as chairman for a staggering 22 years. He was the man at the top during Westmeath's most successful period in both hurling and football. A native of Castletowngeoghegan and also a teacher in St Mary's CBS Mullingar, he also oversaw the development of Cusack Park in the mid '90s.
On 22 December 2007, Tom "Tut" Farrell was elected the new chairman of Westmeath GAA. Farrell, who is also PRO of the Leinster Council, defeated the only other candidate for the post, Patrick Doherty, the out going County PRO. In what had been predicted as a closely run race, Farrell claimed a comfortable victory, winning over 86 of the 149 delegates who were entitled to vote. A native of Tang, on the Longford border, he has served Westmeath immensely down through the years and will continue to do as chairman.
Westmeath staged a strong second half display to capture the Division 2 National Football League title for the third time, and the first since 2003 following a five point win over Dublin at Páirc Tailteann, Navan. The score line was Westmeath 0-15, Dublin 0-10.
Winners in bold. Nominations in plain text.
|2||Mark McCallon||Right Full Back||Garrycastle|
|3||John Gaffey||Full Back||Garrycastle|
|4||Kevin Maguire||Left Full Back||Caulry|
|5||Doran Harte||Right Half Back||Garrycastle|
|6||Michael Ennis||Centre Back||Ballinagore|
|7||Daniel Mcdermott||Left Half Back||Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall|
|10||Kieran Martin||Right Half Forward||Maryland|
|11||Ger Egan||Centre Forward||Tyrrelspass|
|12||Callum McCormack||Left Half Forward||Maryland|
|13||Denis Glennon||Right Full Forward||Tyrrellspass|
|14||David Glennon||Full Forward||Tyrrellspass|
|15||Paul Sharry||Left Full Forward||St.Loman's|
|Eoin Rheinisch||Physical assistant|
Westmeath's hurlers' best performance was a run in the mid 1930s, when they won the Leinster League twice in succession, the Junior Championship in 1936, and beat Laois to qualify for the 1937 Leinster Senior final. They played in the first division of the National Hurling League in 1985-86, and were the only team to beat Galway in an 18-month period. This team included the 3 Kilcoyne brothers and produced an All Star award for David who was the team's free taker and top scorer in 1986. The first All Star award for any Westmeath player in Hurling or football.
Rickardstown's John 'Jobber' McGrath is considered the greatest player to ever play hurling for Westmeath, and as one of the greatest players never to have won an All-Ireland senior hurling title.
In 2005, the county won the first Christy Ring Cup and thereby gained promotion to the 2006 Liam McCarthy Championship. In 2006, they beat Dublin in the first round of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship before losing the semi final to Kilkenny in Mullingar by 14 points. They then lost to Waterford, Galway and, disappointingly, Laois before tamely losing a relegation playoff against Dublin on a scorching July day in Tullamore. Despite progress made in 2006, the GAA condemned the county's hurlers to the Christy Ring Cup - this time without the prospect of promotion. Further rule changes and a Christy Ring win in 2010 allowed westmeath back into the 2011 Liam McCarthy.
Further progress came on 20th of April 2008 with victory in the NHL (Division 2), winning the final against Carlow. That day also saw the Westmeath footballers move into Division 1 of the NFL also with a win over Dublin.
Mary Henry won the camogie All-Ireland Poc Fada Championship in 2006, the first Westmeath woman to win it. Tubberclair in 1987 and Cullion in 1992 won the Coiste Chontae an Chláir Shield at Féile na nGael in 1987. Aileen Lawlor refereed the All Ireland senior finals of 2002 and became president elect of the Camogie Association in 2011.
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