(Westmeath v Carlow, Cusack Park, Sunday, 3.30pm )
Westmeath will be hoping to get their Leinster senior campaign championship off to a winning start in front of their home crowd when they welcome Carlow to Cusack Park on Sunday. In many ways this is a proverbial banana skin with the recently promoted division 1 team red hot favourites to see off the challenge of a division 4 team. The main danger is complacency but Pat Flanagan is sure to his troops well warned against taking anything for granted in championship.
With that said it is difficult to see anything other than a comfortable home win. Indeed with Dublin awaiting the winners Westmeath would want to be winning this game with a bit to spare if they are to have any hope of causing an upset against the Metropolitans.
Dessie Dolan has been handed the number 15 shirt in what is a potent looking forward line. Kieran Gavin returns to full-back while John Gaffey will start at left half-back. It will be interesting to see whether David Duffy can carry his good league form into championship.
The minors showed last week the importance of getting off to a good start. This is something the seniors have failed to do so far this year, relying on strong second-half performance to carve out results. If we are to have a decent run in Leinster or indeed in the qualifiers we will need to improve our performance in the opening quarter. This game gives the perfect platform to work on that.
At the risk of counting chickens, I expect Flanagan’s side to clear the first hurdle by more than the five-point handicap offered by the bookies.