Westmeath welcome Derry to Mullingar for round two of the qualifiers on Saturday at 5pm. After the disappointment of the Louth defeat Pat Flanagan’s men will be hoping to get back to winning ways. Home advantage is an obvious plus but Derry will be a tough nut to crack and will deservedly wear the favourites tag.
Derry lost out to Armagh in the Ulster championship. Since then they have accounted for Carlow on a scoreline of 1-18 to 2-9 in the first round of the qualifiers.
Westmeath will definitely be without the services of the unfortunate Derek Heavin. Derek suffered a serious knee injury against Louth. He remains in hospital and looks set to have further surgery to repair the damage. Derek has always been popular among the Westmeath faithful for his honest style of play. He had only rejoined the panel in recent weeks, having been coaxed back into the fold, making the injury all the more unfortunate. Like all Westmeath football supporters I hope Derek makes a speedy recovery and gets back on his feet before too long. His absence leaves a big void to fill both at club and county level.
Martin Flanagan is another injury concern, having been unable to train since the win over Wicklow. Flanagan made a huge difference when introduced against Louth, bagging a goal in the process. However an ankle injury looks likely to limit his participation yet again. John Keane also looks set to miss out having also picked up a knock.
Derry have problems of their own ahead of the game. Ace talisman Paddy Bradley dropped himself off the panel having been left off the starting team against Carlow. It is rumoured that he has rejoined the panel in recent days but it remains to be seen if he lines out on Saturday.
Star midfielder Fergal Doherty will also be missing for the Oak Leaf County having picked up a shoulder injury against Carlow.
Westmeath drew with Offaly in a recent challenge game, during which Pat Flanagan experimented with a number of players.
Westmeath will have to show significant improvement on recent form if they are to progress. Home advantage plus the fact that there is no real pressure on them from here on in might bring out the best in the Lakelanders.
Derry will be keen to put their own problems aside and will not be taking anything for granted.
Many of the Westmeath players would love to gain revenge for the quarter final defeat to Derry in 2004. It looks a tall order but with the right attitude anything is possible.