Clonkill boss O'Reilly plots another major upset
It couldn't be called a revolution, but those at the coalface of Westmeath hurling can see the progress.
There's been no single moment that you can hang your hat on. Just a few small wins here and there that point to improvement. Earlier this year, the county minors beat Wexford in the Leinster championship and they've entered a team in the Leinster colleges' championship.
On the club scene, they've also upset the established order. Raharney beat Coolderry in 2010. This year, Clonkill are Westmeath champions and they have already beaten Carlow's St Mullins. Tomorrow, they welcome Oulart-The Ballagh to Mullingar as they look to strike another blow for hurling in the county.
"At the start of the year our aim was to get back to a county final because we hadn't been there since 2012," Clonkill manager David O'Reilly explained. "And once you got there you wanted to win it, of course. But I suppose a lot of people wouldn't know that the club scene in Westmeath is strong and very competitive."
Clonkill have pedigree when it comes to mounting club campaigns at this time of year. In 2007, they entered the Leinster intermediate campaign as Westmeath senior champions.
A few months later, they were All-Ireland champions after taking the scalps of the likes of current Kilkenny champions Clara and Galway's Tommy Larkins along the way. The result also meant that the Westmeath champions returned to hurling in the senior grade after a brief hiatus at intermediate.
"It was a great run for the club. Beating Clara in Kilkenny was great as they were going to play in the Kilkenny senior championship the following year and a lot of Westmeath clubs have done well since then. I remember Raharney ran Oulart to a few points a couple of years ago. And last year they were only a few points off Kilcormac-Killoughey,'' Reilly said.
Oulart-The Ballagh are on the glory trail in Leinster again. They have won 12 Wexford titles in 21 seasons but getting over the line in the province has eluded them and O'Reilly is wary of what they will bring after overcoming a stern examination by Laois champions Clough-Ballacolla.
"They'll definitely feel they have a point to prove," O'Reilly offered. "They have been knocking on the door a while now and they have some superb players. Mount Leinster Rangers beat them a couple of years ago and maybe they took their eye off it a little bit. But they look determined this year."