Westmeath want to stay among elite

Westmeath hurling boss Brian Hanley has warned that the county’s progress will stagnate if they are condemned to the league’s lower grade next year.

Westmeath, along with Carlow, were omitted from the Michael Burns 12-team proposal and have tabled a ‘Super 14’ alternative which will be voted on at Saturday’s Central Council meeting. Pointing to the strides made in recent campaigns, Hanley stressed the importance of allowing the Lake County hurlers compete with the elite in 2014.

“We are in the same boat as Limerick in that we didn’t win promotion to a higher grade last season, but just for the development of hurling in Carlow and Westmeath this league restructuring is crucial,” he claimed.

“We have no problem with either the 14-team Division 1 league proposal or the original eight and six proposal so long as Westmeath and Carlow are given the fair opportunities that both deserve. That is all we are looking for. The proposal of eight teams in Division 1A and six in Division 1B probably makes more sense, but either or really.

“We are expected to compete in the Leinster championship against teams who have had better league preparations than us, better league campaigns that we had. We have earned the right to be in it the same way Limerick and Cork have. Carlow particularly deserve to be up there given how competitive they were this year. Both of us are on a very long road to progressing, that is what we are trying to do. The league proposal of a 14-team Division 1 if passed will benefit both counties no end.”

Carlow chairman Michael Meaney has expressed optimism that the counties’ joint proposal will receive sufficient backing this weekend, but Hanley is unsure how the vote will manifest.

“To be honest I don’t what the mood is in other counties. I don’t know the politics. I am a Galway man here in Westmeath trying to promote hurling and do the best I can. We have promoted the game no end in the past two years. We have come from a very low ebb to being recognised as a genuine hurling team. The big thing for us was with two minutes to go against Waterford in the first-half of our qualifier this summer we were three points up. We had a chance of a goal, but their ’keeper saved it. They went down the field and got a goal to level it at the break. They beat us comprehensively in the second-half. How do we now bridge that second-half? We need better hurling, the same as Carlow do.

“We also have an U21 team that are hugely capable. Playing in a higher division will bring them on no end. It is about getting young lads into Cusack Park to watch hurling and getting the bigger teams in. All we are trying to do at the end of the day is promote hurling.”

Elsewhere, Hanley’s squad has been bolstered by the decision of Ciaran Curley to switch codes next year. Curley lined out at full-forward for the Westmeath footballers this summer and was a central cog in the sides promotion to Division 1 of the league.

“He played hurling for Westmeath in 2011, but went in with the footballers this year. His club Mullingar Shamrocks won the county football title last year and his form meant he was probably the standout player in the club football championship. We have met him and he will be playing hurling next year. He is a forward and an older player which we need.”

Meanwhile, Wexford board chairman Diarmuid Devereux has confirmed that Liam Dunne’s entire 2013 panel have committed to next season’s campaign.<


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