Westmeath have drawn Louth in the first round of the qualifiers due to take place on Saturday week, June 30.
Having cruelly lost out to the same opposition by an injury-time goal in the Leinster championship, Westmeath will not be lacking in motivation when they welcome The Wee County to Cusack Park.
This will be the seventh time the sides have met in the past two years and Louth have won on the previous six occasions. The familiarity of the two sides is a huge drawback in terms of attracting a crowd to this fixture. Indeed much of the glamour and attraction has faded since the introduction of the backdoor system in 2001, a year The Lake County enjoyed an extended run to the All-Ireland quarter-final. With that said it is not a bad draw from a Westmeath point of view when one considers that we could have been drawn against the likes of Armagh, Derry, or Laois.
The lack of interest in the qualifiers has played a part in the large number of players from almost every county who have exited the provincial championship heading abroad for the summer months. Westmeath captain Gary Connaughton hooked up with The Wolfe Tones club in Boston earlier this week while Louth have lost duo Derek McGuire and Liam Shevlin to the States also.
Home advantage is a huge boost for Pat Flanagan’s men who saved their best league performances for the familiar surrounds of Cusack Park. One major concern ahead of the game surrounds the availability of John Heslin who underwent keyhole surgery on his knee on Tuesday. It is expected he will be available for Saturday week but it will be a close call. David Glennon also had to retire early through injury in Tyrrellspass’ easy win over Bunbrosna in the club championship last weekend.
Louth have been badly hampered since their trouncing at the hands of Dublin with only nine of their panel of 30 available for training last week. Full-forward Jim McEneaney is the latest to join the injury list which includes Paddy Keenan, Darren Clarke, and Gerard Hoey.
It is a great opportunity for Pat Flanagan’s men to end the Louth hoodoo and progress to the next round of the qualifiers.