Westmeath’s draw with Cavan last weekend may have ended their losing run which stretched to 15 consecutive league games but a much improved performance will be needed if we are to collect both points on offer in Semple Stadium on Sunday. With only a few minutes remaining Pat Flanagan’s men looked as though they were heading for a long overdue win, only for Cavan substitute Gearoid McKiernan to fire over a brace to secure the draw.
Given the amount of chances which Cavan missed throughout the game Westmeath should be happy with the draw. The only goal of the contest was of the fortuitous variety when it arrived midway through the opening half. Seanie Johnston had a point in mind but the ball dipped beneath the crossbar and into the back of Darren Quinn’s net.
The final scoreline of 1-9 to 0-12 tells its own story. We are still struggling to put scores on the board. 0-12 playing at home must be a concern for Pat Flanagan and his selectors and is something that needs to be addressed. On paper at least we look to have plenty of scoring forwards but in our two outings to date it just hasn’t being happening up front.
Part of the blame though not all, does lie with the forwards themselves. Paul Greville doesn’t look as sharp as last year. Denis Glennon has been far less threatening than usual though playing far too deep and injury concerns have not helped his cause. Ger Egan hasn’t built on his O’Byrne Cup form and was guilty of taking too much out of the ball. Davey Glennon and Dessie both put in good second halves against Cavan but will need to be more consistent over the 70 minutes in the games ahead. Fergal Wilson put in a decent first half but was replaced mid-way through the second half.
In defence of the forwards there is clearly a problem with the ball coming in - it is far too slow. Any forward worth their salt will tell you that you can’t beat getting quick ball in. Westmeath have got into the (bad ) habit of carrying the ball from the half-backline and midfield and it is slowing things down too much. A number of the forwards too are guilty of taking far too much out of the ball and I have no doubt that if Flanagan can eliminate some of that selfish play the scores will start to flow again.
So can Westmeath secure their first win of the campaign in Semple Stadium on Sunday? The bookies reckon it’s unlikely but I don’t see why we shouldn’t collect both points. The u21s’ performance on Wednesday against Laois is bound to give things a lift. I have a feeling there will be a number of changes to the starting line-up. Conor Lynam who excelled for the u21s looks set to be given a starting place, possibly at the expense of Denis Glennon who is nursing an injury.
Darren Quinn is a fine goalkeeper and has a bright future ahead but I think it’s a waste having someone of the calibre of Gary Connaughton sitting on a bench when we desperately need a win. I expect him to be between the sticks on Sunday.
John Heslin received a straight red in the dying minutes against Cavan and in his absence David Duffy looks likely to slot back into midfield alongside Denis Corroon. Tipp are very strong in midfield and we will need a big performance in this sector if we are to upset the odds. The backs in general will need to tighten up a lot on the Cavan performance.
A win here would be a huge confidence booster. Tipp beat Limerick at home in their opener before losing away to Louth last weekend. Home advantage is a significant factor in the league and while we will need to play well above anything we have shown in our two outing to date I will travel with optimism to the home of the GAA.