Goal Scoring Maguire Ready For Action
The 2023 All-Ireland football championships are only two weekends old, and already there have been plenty of memorable moments to savour, including New York’s heroics against Leitrim, a remarkable defensive effort by Roscommon in Castlebar, and Offaly’s Peter Cunningham stepping up from centre back to score a memorable goal that secured his side’s one-point win over Longford the weekend before he got married.
Yet all of those moments were arguably trumped last Sunday afternoon in Omagh, when Monaghan wing-back Ryan O’Toole went a step further than Cunningham, firing in a goal in stoppage time to turn over 2021 All-Ireland champions Tyrone on their home ground on his senior championship debut.
Backs popping up with incredible, game-changing scores has become a feature of modern football, where positions have become a lot less relevant and the best players can thrive in any role, in any part of the field. Westmeath have been no exception to this, with James Dolan among their leading scorers in their current panel, while team captain and full-back Kevin Maguire also put his name on one of the Lake County’s 14 Allianz League goals this Spring when he found the net against Fermanagh.
The big Caulry man is in no doubt as to his primary function on the field however, and still relishes the opportunities that he gets to take on a big name opponent in a man-on-man battle.
“I’m playing twelve years and definitely in that twelve years there’s been a complete change” he said. “Back when I started, you had the [likes of] Kieran Donaghy and other big men at full-forward, that’s not happening as much these days because it’s nippy lads who can run around.
“I always really enjoy having that one-to-one battle. I think as a full-back or a defender, that’s where you can peg yourself against someone and figure out if you have it”.
He admits however that more often than not, games don’t play out that way.
“Probably not, with the way teams set up.
“It can be frustrating for forwards with defensive structures put in place, but that’s the aim of the game for teams. I’d love to see more of [one-on-one battles] and I think the fans would love to see more of it. It would make for a better spectacle, more dramatic, end-to-end”.
At the time of writing, injury doubts surrounding Sam Mulroy have cast a lot of doubt on who will be Maguire’s direct opponent this Sunday at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, but even with so many injury concerns in the Louth camp, the Wee County’s form is such that they have been marked out as likely Leinster finalists from the ‘Non-Dublin’ side of the draw.
On that subject, Maguire is every bit as unequivocal as his playing style.
“I expect to get to a Leinster final this year. First and foremost we have a huge team to play against, who are performing very well so we’re not looking past that, but in my own goals and our team’s goals, we wouldn’t be happy with anything less than getting to a Leinster final and seeing how we get on. Then we have Sam Maguire a couple of weeks after to get ready for as well, so there’s some great opportunities this Summer”.
That guaranteed passage through to the group stages of the All-Ireland championship was earned in Croke Park last Summer when Westmeath overcame Cavan to win the first ever Tailteann Cup competition, a success that ushered in wild scenes of celebration at GAA headquarters, and later on, in Mullingar for the team’s homecoming.
It was a win that Maguire relished, but he’s keeping it in perspective all the same.
“Cavan are a good outfit and that was a tough match. It took character, it took a game plan and it took fitness, it took a lot of stuff to go right that day to win that game. That experience in Croke Park, playing against both Cavan and Offaly, is probably the thing that will stand to us most this year” he said.
“It’s a second-tier competition versus the Sam Maguire, we’re all very conscious of that too” he continued. We’re not getting big heads over the fact we won the Tailteann Cup. It’s huge and it was a great experience and a big challenge but we have bigger fish to fry. We want to go to better places and we enjoyed that alright as you should, we don’t get too many. We’re well aware of the next step that we have to take. We took it for what it was and we’ll go and learn from it. We’re aiming for bigger and better this this year, starting with the Leinster championship and a win over Louth this Sunday.”