Westmeath footballers have a glorious opportunity of reaching this year’s Leinster decider despite a tough opener away to Wexford. The provincial draw has been very kind to them as they avoid the big guns of Dublin, Kildare, Meath, and Laois. If they can clear their first hurdle in Wexford Park tomorrow evening (Saturday ) then they will face either Louth or Carlow in a semi-final. It is hard to look beyond a Louth win over Luke Dempsey’s men in that one and they would hardly instil fear in Westmeath.
Pat Flanagan’s men will be keenly aware of the opportunity that is there waiting to be seized before they take to the field tomorrow. So too however will Wexford. Ace attacker Redmond Barry alluded to this earlier in the week when he said there is very little between any of the four teams left on that side of the draw and they will all fancy their chances of making the decider. While there is sure to be a right scrap to secure a Leinster final berth it is hard to look outside Dublin and Kildare for ultimate honours.
So can Westmeath pull off a win in the lion’s den this weekend? At first glance Wexford deserve to wear the favourite’s tag. Their impressive demolition job of Offaly in Tullamore cannot be overlooked, albeit that Offaly were poor. Any team that scores 2-16 while only conceding 0-8 must be taken seriously. Having a game under their belts is an undoubted advantage.
Home advantage is another serious plus especially with a guaranteed large support due to the double header ( Wexford hurlers face Kilkenny at 7pm ). Ben Brosnan and Ciaran Lyng are in red-hot form scoring 1-13 between them against Offaly. In Rory Quinlivan and Daithi Waters they possess a strong midfield partnership in an area where Westmeath have question marks.
On the other hand Westmeath play better away from home and will not fear Jason Ryan’s men. While league form has little or no bearing on championship there was only three points between the sides when they met and Westmeath have improved significantly since.
While the team hasn’t been announced at the time of going to press I don’t expect Dessie Dolan to be starting as he is recovering from a hamstring strain. He will be available to be called upon if needed. Despite Dessie’s absence from the starting line-up we still look strong up front.
The half forward line is likely to consist of Heslin, David Glennon, and Sharry with Greville, Denis Glennon, and Lynam inside. That looks like a potent attack if they get enough possession and don’t drop too deep. With the likes of Dessie Dolan and the in-form Peter Tormey, amongst others, to call on we have options in this department.
Darragh Daly looks likely to be partnered by Denis Corroon in midfield and how they cope with their counterparts will have a big bearing on the outcome of this game.
Our backs will need to tighten up and take nothing for granted against the likes of Redmond Barry, Lyng, and Brosnan. Our defence has come in for criticism in recent months and they will have to have the answers when the questions are asked on Saturday evening.
Weather permitting I expect this could be a high-scoring game with both sets of forwards likely to be on top. If that’s how it pans out midfield will decide the outcome. Heslin and Sharry will have to help out our midfield pairing and if we can shade it there then I think the journey home mightn’t seem as long. With a little luck I don’t see why we can’t clear the first hurdle on the road to a Leinster final spot.