The Westmeath footballers held a hugely successful fight night last Saturday week in The Mullingar Park Hotel to raise much needed money to fund their endeavours for the year ahead.
Some 1,300 or so paying customers packed in to see the 13 separate bouts which included the likes of Michael Ennis pitted against Dennis Glennon (Glennon edged that one), and former great Martin Flanagan got the judge’s decision against Brendan Murtagh. Huge credit is due to the organisers and most especially the twenty six boxers who put their reputations on the line for the cause of Westmeath football.
So while the fighting may be over on that front for another year, our footballers now find themselves faced with a battle of a different hue. This time the battle is one of survival in division two of the national football league.
It is fair to say that given the long list of absentees from this year’s panel we are punching above our weight in division two. Indeed survival in division three would be an achievement given how inexperienced our side is at present.
Last weekend’s opening round loss away to Louth means we now have a mountain to climb if we are to maintain our division two status. Despite holding a slender (1-3 to 0-5) half-time lead, Pat Flanagan’s men were outplayed for much of the second half and went 33 minutes without raising a flag.
Paddy Keenan dictated matters around the midfield sector in a man of the match display to mark his one hundredth appearance for the Wee County. Westmeath were dealt a major blow when Denis Glennon hobbled off with an ankle injury with 20 minutes remaining.
While the new-look Lake County side could not be faulted for effort and spirit, their difficulty in putting scores on the board is a major worry in our quest for survival. A score of 1-6 will not win any game at this level and with the likes of Tyrone, Kildare, Derry, Galway, Meath, and Monaghan to come, it is easy to see why we are favourites to make the drop back down to the third tier.
This weekend it is our old enemy Meath who provide the opposition in a game fixed for Cusack Park on Sunday at 2.30pm. The Royals will travel in confidence following their opening round win over Monaghan.
In the aftermath of the Louth game Flanagan made clear his intention to target our four home games to collect points. With that in mind Sunday’s game is a proverbial four-pointer. Meath were flattered by their six-point winning margin against the Farney men who kicked 16 wides over the 70 minutes, but their greater experience makes them worthy favourites.
It is expected that Denis Glennon will be fit to play and his presence would be vital if we are to have any chance of upsetting the odds. Daragh Daly is also expected to be available to boost the midfield sector while Athlone’s Paul Bannon is also in line for a place in the first XV.
A win on Sunday would keep the survival door open for Westmeath and that fact will not be lost on the players who are not shirking responsibility in terms of training. It is hard to be optimistic of a home win (though anything is possible), but a decent performance with some of our newer brigade showing up well would be acceptable to most reasonable supporters as we continue to rebuild ahead of championship.