For the third year running Louth are the opposition as Westmeath begin their league campaign. This time last year remaining in division 2 was the main and seemingly doubtful goal. Twelve months on and the mood is far more optimistic with promotion a definite prospect if the team hit form. With that said there are no easy games in division 2.
Home advantage is a huge plus. Last year our impressive wins over Galway, Monaghan, and Derry all came in Cusack Park. Flanagan is once again sure to target winning all of our home games which include Louth, Laois, and Armagh. In addition we are away to neighbours Longford, Galway, Wexford and Derry and while we are capable of collecting both points in each of those encounters there is nothing easy about any of them.
The return of John Heslin last year had an immediate effect and his presence is a huge plus as we embark on a new season. His tussle with Paddy Keenan will be worth the entry fee alone on Sunday.
Dessie Dolan is also back on board this year after taking a year out last year and while he is not included in the starting fifteen he is sure to see action at some stage. Similarly David Duffy is another who has returned to the fold and increases our options in the midfield sector where Paul Bannon has been showing well.
Given the way the team is lined out, I expect Kieran Martin to drop back from wing-forward and Ronan Foley likely to do likewise from corner forward to help out our defence. With the strength of the forward unit at his disposal I hope Flanagan doesn’t opt for too defensive a strategy as we certainly look capable of hurting teams up front.
We are not short of options on the bench either with David Glennon another likely to see action along with the aforementioned Dolan and Duffy.
While Westmeath beat The Wee County in last year’s qualifiers, Louth have enjoyed the better of the exchanges over the past few years. New Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke will be keen to get his reign off to a winning start but on this occasion I can’t see anything other than a home win.