Westmeath captain Aonghus Clarke has hit out at the timing of Sunday’s All-Ireland preliminary hurling quarter-final with Cork, claiming the short turnaround is ‘unfair’ on his county. Westmeath came up short for the second year running in the Joe McDonagh Cup final last weekend and have been afforded little time to mull over the loss to Laois.
They will be back in action this Sunday against Cork, who finished third in the Munster championship, while McDonagh Cup winners Laois play Dublin, the third placed Leinster team. It will be Cork’s first game since wrapping up their Munster campaign on June 16 against Clare, a 21-day break between games compared to Westmeath’s mere seven.
“I think it’s a bit unfair having the game seven days later after building up for the Joe McDonagh final,” said Clarke. “The Joe McDonagh is your All-Ireland, if you like, because you’re looking towards next year and trying to get into the top tier. I think it’s unfair that the other team (Cork) has three weeks to prepare compared to us.
“Realistically, if you’d won the McDonagh you were going to be out celebrating and then having to turn around seven days later and play a team from a league above you that’s had three weeks of a break, that’s unfair.
They could give it two weeks, just to fair. But it’s not going to change now.
Despite the difficult buildup, centre-back Clarke said that Westmeath will be aiming to pull off a famous win and to defy the giant 15-point handicap that has been placed on All-Ireland hopefuls Cork.
Asked if a battling defeat would be acceptable, Clarke said: “I think we have to treat it like we’re going to win. That’s the way you go for it, there’s no point going out to be within five points of them or whatever. That’s how we’ll treat it anyway and see what happens then. I don’t know any other way to approach it.”
The Castletown Geoghegan man accepted Westmeath will be able to play with freedom as all the pressure will be on Cork to win at their ease.
“There’s a bit of an element of freedom,” he said. “There was a bit of pressure with the McDonagh final so there’ll be none of that on us next weekend. We’ll put in the same preparation but there will be that element of freedom too.”
Westmeath will be part of the Allianz league’s top tier in 2020 and will compete against Cork, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford in that division. Clarke described Sunday’s match as a chance for the Westmeath players to prove to themselves that they deserve to be at that level.
“That’s the level we have to pitch ourselves against, we’re going to be playing them all next year and there’s no point going out for moral victories for the whole of next year,” he said.
“We’ll be going out aiming to win those games next year. It’s going to be the same for next weekend, we have to go out to win. And it’s in Cusack Park, somewhere we like playing and hopefully we’ll do well.”