Raharney keen to strike a blow for Lake County
IT WAS only back in 2006 that Raharney were licking their wounds after a Leinster Intermediate hurling final loss to Ardclough of Kildare, but last Sunday they scalped Offaly kingpins Coolderry in one of the most significant results for Westmeath clubs in recent times.
Leinster's premier competition hasn't always been kind to Lake County clubs.
Wicklow's Glenealy beat 2005 champions Castlepollard by seven points, a result that prompted a brief stint in the intermediate competition for Westmeath's representatives.
Raharney reached the final that year but defeat to the Kildare side represented a setback.
Clonkill would win the 2007/08 All-Ireland title and Westmeath clubs were back in the big time.
The same side got close enough to Tullamore last year to suggest that last Sunday's odds of 1/12 about Coolderry were stupidly short.
"It wasn't a total surprise to us, certainly not to the extent that the bookies thought," said Raharney's John Shaw. "Clonkill probably should have beaten Tullamore last year and we knew we had prepared well. We certainly didn't go into the game with any fear."
Their preparation included a visit from Clare's Davy Fitzgerald and they include four members of this year's Christy Ring Cup-winning Westmeath side.
Among those are dual players Paul Greville, Conor Jordan and Frank Boyle but Raharney is still very much a hurling stronghold.
The county's three Christy Ring Cup successes were powered from a small pocket of clubs just north of Mullingar and with nine senior outfits, a win over the Offaly champions represents a significant coup for the county.
Despite that, Raharney's football wing, Killucan, made a good attempt at the senior football championship, losing out to eventual champions Garrycastle in the semi-final after building up a six-point half-time lead.
"I suppose on previous occasions going into Leinster you'd be just so glad to win a championship that you might celebrate it too much and wouldn't be properly focused," said Shaw (28), an auctioneer and a Fianna Fail county councillor.
"The Westmeath championship is very competitive and it takes a lot to win it but this time around we knew we had a good chance."
Wexford's Oulart-The Ballagh come to Cusack Park on Sunday week and they'll represent another step up for the Westmeath side. But if the game is in the melting pot in the final quarter, Raharney will be confident.
In their county final they were six points down with seven minutes to go and they got over the line.
And against Coolderry, the sides were tied on 13 points each with just over 10 minutes to go and Raharney outscored their Offaly opponents by four points to one.
"We're quite a young team. I'm one of the oldest at 28 so hopefully there's more to come from this team," said Shaw.
"Oulart are going to be very strong but we've come this far and it'd be a shame not to give it everything for the next couple of weeks and see where that takes us."