Westmeath v Wicklow (Cusack Park, Saturday, 3pm )
Westmeath minor footballers have home advantage when they take on Wicklow in the Leinster quarter-final this Saturday. Tom Carr’s side had a good win over Wexford in the opening round even if it took them a long time to get going. That win will have been a great confidence booster and I expect to see a more polished performance this weekend.
Wicklow had a fine 2-14 to 2-8 opening round win over Carlow. They showed their character by turning around a six-point half-time deficit to run out comfortable winners. They will fancy their chances of causing an upset here.
Minor games are notoriously difficult to predict and confidence plays a big part. While Westmeath had a narrow win in Aughrim last year there is no doubt that home advantage should be worth a few points.
The absence of talented Luke Loughlin with a shoulder injury is a significant blow to Carr’s side. On the plus side Israel Ilunga who was on colleges duty for the opening round is likely to start at full back while Tang’s Conor Marlowe is likely to see action up front at some stage having recovered from injury.
Both management and players have received more than their fair share of criticism in recent months. The best way to shut critics up is by winning. The win over Wexford and a good performance against Galway in a recent challenge are signs that things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully a large home support will be present to shout the lads on. I expect them to progress but to do so they will have to perform to a higher level and for longer than their opening round.
The prize on offer is a semi-final meeting with either Laois or Meath on July 6. Long journeys begin with small steps.