O’Connor Park, Tullamore hosts a double header of All-Ireland minor football quarter-finals this bank holiday Monday and both Westmeath and Roscommon will be hoping they can progress to the semi-finals. Tom Carr’s side take on Connacht champions Mayo at 2.15pm while Fergal O’Donnell’s Roscommon will battle it out with a fancied Kildare side at 4pm.
Both Westmeath and Roscommon will be underdogs having lost their respective provincial deciders. Westmeath were no match for a physically stronger and slicker Kildare side in the Leinster final. Roscommon however were more than a match for Mayo in the Connacht final but were undone by the concession of soft goals.
There is no doubt that both local teams are very much up against it but Westmeath have arguably the better chance of progressing. Mayo were outplayed for long periods by both Galway and Roscommon but their ability to score goals edged them over the line. Westmeath will be well aware of this threat and provided they can keep a clean sheet Tom Carr’s side can cause an upset.
Unfortunately this Westmeath side which has been hampered all year with injuries has been dealt another blow with Rosemount clubman Boidu Sayeh rated extremely doubtful following a hefty challenge in a recent Westmeath IFC match. Fellow clubman man Theo Watts is of course also ruled out with a cruciate ligament injury and he leaves a big void in midfield while wing forward Jeremiah Scally remains sidelined with a broken ankle.
O’Connor Park is an unusual choice of venue for the meeting of Westmeath and Mayo but it should be a slight advantage to the Lakelanders. Tullamore has been a happy hunting ground in the past for Westmeath minor teams and hopefully a decent crowd will travel the short distance to give the team the support they deserve.
As stated before it is imperative that Westmeath don’t concede goals if they are to have any hope of progressing. They will also need to be more competitive in the vital midfield sector than they were in the provincial decider. Up front we will need a big performance from the hugely talented Luke Loughlin if a place in the last four is to be secured.
Hopefully the heavy defeat to Kildare will not have left its mark on Tom Carr’s youngsters and if they can play to their potential they have to be in with a great chance.
For Roscommon the challenge would appear even greater given the strength of their opposition. Kildare are favourites to lift the All-Ireland title and based on their last outing they will be hard stopped.
Roscommon will feel they could have completed the three-in-a-row of provincial titles but for leaking goals. This is their chance for redemption.
Kildare teams have in the past often flattered to deceive while Fergal O’Donnell’s sides are renowned for their battling qualities. This adds another dimension to what should be an entertaining contest and will give further cause for optimism for the travelling Roscommon support.
While Roscommon are sure to give it their best I feel it may not be good enough to see them progress. Hopefully they can prove me wrong.