All roads lead to Croke Park this Sunday as Westmeath square up to Derry in the division 2 league final at 2pm. Dublin take on Tyrone in the division 1 final at 4pm but Lake County supporters will be hoping to be celebrating a fourth division 2 title at that stage.
Indeed Westmeath have an unblemished record in division 2 finals having accounted for Cork in 2001, Limerick in 2003, and Dublin in 2008. Derry are deserving favourites but that won’t worry Flanagan’s side who will be hoping to replicate the famous league quarter final win of 1994 when division 4 winners Westmeath beat the reigning All-Ireland champions in Enniskillen to record a famous victory.
A decade later and the shoe was on the other foot when the sides met for the one and only time in championship. Fresh from capturing our one and only provincial title, it was Derry who burst our bubble at the quarter final stage in a game we were well capable of winning.
Last year Westmeath came out on top in the group stages but this year, with promotion secured an experimental Lake County side shipped a heavy defeat to Sunday’s opposition when they met on April 7.
In terms of form that game will have little bearing on Sunday’s clash. Derry will not be fooled into complacency while Flanagan’s men will be confident that with a stronger team in action they can come out on top this time around.
Westmeath captain Kieran Gavin who has recovered from a work-related accident has to be happy with a place on the bench as John Gaffey is named at full back. Dessie Dolan is also held in reserve but both are likely to see action.
Flanagan will be hoping David Duffy can maintain his excellent recent form alongside Heslin in midfield. Denis Glennon and Ciaran Curley have slight injury concerns but both are expected to be passed fit to play.
While the Midlanders have surpassed many people’s expectations in their campaign thus far and defeat here would not be a major setback, any chance of collecting national silverware should not be taken lightly.
If Westmeath are to bring home the silverware they will have to target a better opening-half performance than they have been accustomed to throughout the league. Strong second-half performances have become their hallmark but against a team of Derry’s undoubted quality it will be extra hard to turn a deficit around.
Provided the Lake County bring their A game they have to be in with a great chance of maintaining the unbeaten record in division 2 finals and in doing so put the icing on what has been a memorable league campaign.