A gutsy 0-16 to 2-9 opening round win over Louth last Sunday was the perfect start to the new season for Pat Flanagan’s side who look well placed to collect another valuable brace of league points when they make the short journey to Pearse Park, Longford this Sunday.
Things didn’t look too rosy for the home side when they trailed 2-3 to 0-3 after 20 minutes last Sunday and were down to 14 men following the dismissal of Doran Harte. Yet they refused to panic and led by strong performances from Paul Sharry, Kieran Martin, Callum McCormack, Denis Glennon, John Heslin, and Dessie Dolan when introduced, they deservingly clawed their way back to claim the spoils.
While one swallow doesn’t make a summer there were plenty of positives to take from the performance. The half-time score stood at 2-4 to 0-7 but the visitors soon widened the gap to five points. At that stage many of the aforementioned Westmeath players stood up and were counted. Denis Glennon became more involved in proceedings and Louth had no answer to his speed and skill while Callum McCormack’s three unanswered points were crucial to the outcome. Heslin underlined his class with two late converted frees from the 45 yard line which sealed matters for the home side.
Flanagan will be keenly aware that the defence, particularly the full back line, will have to tighten up if we are to come out on top against a Longford side hurting after their agonising defeat away to Wexford last weekend. Longford had led from the throw-in until a 69th minute Redmond Barry goal handed victory to the yellow-bellies.
Louth full-forward Shane Lennon was a handful throughout and caused all sorts of problems for Kieran Gavin at full-back. Conceding two goals is not something Gary Connaughton will be pleased with even if the big Tubberclair man was not at fault for either. The first was fortuitous as a shot that appeared to be heading wide was deflected into the Westmeath net after just seven minutes. The Westmeath defence was caught flat-footed when a Louth free came back off the post and Colm Judge bagged the second major for the Wee County.
Being a man down didn’t help our cause but we certainly need to be winning more breaking ball around the middle. One thing for sure is if we get enough possession, we have the forwards to hurt teams.
Dessie Dolan brought experience and composure when introduced and is surely worth a start against Longford. Dennis Glennon appears to play better when Dessie is on the field and that pair along with Callum McCormack and Ger Egan would test any defence.
David Glennon and Lorcan Smyth are two other viable options who could easily see action on Sunday with James Dolan likely to be dropped back to wing-back in place of Doran Harte.
Westmeath/ Longford clashes are always tight and I don’t expect this weekend’s fixture to be any different. Westmeath have not got a good away record in the league but given what I saw last weekend though I will be surprised if the Lake County can’t make it two wins out of two.
Elsewhere Roscommon had an opening round win over Sligo. They face another tough assignment this weekend away to Fermanagh. Without the St Brigid’s contingent they will need to bring their A game if they are to get the better of Peter Canavan’s men. A home win looks the most likely outcome.