These are tough times for Westmeath as Paul Bealin’s team face a tricky All-Ireland senior football round 1B qualifier away to Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park tomorrow (throw-in 3pm ). Westmeath have suffered 12 Allianz Football League and Championship defeats in 13 fixtures, so arresting that worrying trend is what the Midlanders are tasked with. Derry (3 ), Dublin (2 ), Fermanagh, Cork, Kildare, Mayo, Tyrone, Kerry, and Louth have all outsmarted Westmeath, who haven’t recorded a win since May 19, 2013 when Carlow were dismissed 3-15 to 1-10.
During the past five years, especially at under 21 level, Cavan have the cut of a county intending to make an impact at the top level so this will be a seriously demanding job for Westmeath.
Cavan reached the All-Ireland quarter finals last year where Kerry proved to be too strong, but Terry Hyland’s charges responded in the spring earning promotion to division two of the Allianz Football League. Worryingly for them, though, Roscommon inflicted another Croke Park beating on them in the Division Three decider in April and Armagh subsequently overcame Cavan in the Ulster Championship. Those reversals mean doubt has crept into Cavan minds so Westmeath will be hoping to take advantage of any confusion that exists.
Bereft of confidence, Westmeath suffered a bitterly disappointing Cusack Park loss to Louth in the Leinster Championship. Bealin’s side could have claimed a victory in that clash, but the introduction of teenager Ryan Burns, who netted the decisive goal, flattened Westmeath.
Now Westmeath must make the trip to Cavan, who failed to fire themselves during a controversial collision with Armagh. Cavan only scored nine points over the course of the 70 minutes as Armagh bolted the defensive doors firmly shut.
Without Martin Dunne, Cavan’s attack lacked potency as midfielders Gearoid McKiernan and David Givney combined for four of the scores. None of the starting Cavan attackers scored from play, but Eugene Keating does offer a real ball-winning presence inside so Westmeath will need to nullify his influence.
At centrefield much will hinge on John Heslin, who is one of the most promising and productive young footballers in the country. Heslin’s potential supplies some hope as Westmeath seek to terminate a 13-month search for a notable competitive victory.