Westmeath footballers got their 2013 season off on the right note with a comfortable win over Athlone IT in Hogan Park, Moate last Sunday. While the O’Byrne Cup is far from the Holy Grail, it is still a worthwhile competition for blooding new talent and an opportunity for more established players to shed the winter cobwebs.
Dessie Dolan is far from new talent but his return to the fold and good form was one of the main talking points following this one-sided affair. Apart from the result, Pat Flanagan can take plenty of positives from his first competitive fixture of the year.
The movement and interlink play in the Westmeath attack was very encouraging with Denis Glennon looking razor sharp and Callum McCormack also in fine fettle. Indeed Glennon (1-6 ), Dolan (0-6 frees ), and McCormack accounted for 1-17 between them. Newcomers Ciaran Curley and Declan Mullen also got on the scoresheet and acquitted themselves quite well.
Flanagan will also be pleased with the performances of Ger Egan, Kieran Martin, and Eoin Carberry who lined out for the students. Egan hit six points while Carberry pulled off a penalty save from Paul Bannon in the second half.
There will be much tougher opposition from here on but a winning start will help maintain the good vibes which are radiating from the camp in recent times.
Laois enjoyed home advantage when they took on Westmeath in the second round of the O’Byrne Cup in a frosty O’Moore Park on Wednesday night. Having lost to neighbours Offaly at the weekend Justin McNulty fielded a relatively experienced side for the midweek fixture.
Pat Flanagan on the other hand opted to field a more experimental side with Denis Glennon and Dessie Dolan being rested. Lake County supporters must have feared the worse when they saw the two team sheets but the visitors put up a stubborn fight before succumbing in the final quarter.
Padraig Clancy bagged the two goals for the O’Moore men which proved the difference in the end. Again Flanagan had many positives to take from this outing particularly from a defensive point of view though we were far less potent without the services of Glennon and Dolan.
Westmeath v Offaly (Sunday, 2pm, Cusack Park )
This Sunday Westmeath faced an interesting home game against neighbours Offaly in the final group game in the O’Byrne Cup. Interestingly Offaly have a Westmeath man in charge while Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan is of course an Offaly native.
Emmet McDonald who is the youngest inter-county manager at present has hit the ground running with Offaly as he tries to restore pride in Offaly football. He has been fielding experienced teams in his two outings to date, recording a good win over Laois last Sunday and a similar result against AIT midweek. A win here would ensure a semi-final spot for his side.
This is a must-win game for Westmeath if they are to advance to the knockout stages and even with a win their fortunes could be decided on score difference. Regardless of the outcome this is a great opportunity for Flanagan to get another competitive outing as he prepares his side for a tough division two campaign.
I expect both sides to field strong sides with Dolan and Glennon likely to be starting. It should be competitive but if the Westmeath forward unit are in the same vein of form as last Sunday it should ensure a home win.