Westmeath face Laois in Division Two League opener

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin. Photo: Sportsfile

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin. Photo: Sportsfile

Having finally ended a 19-month search for a competitive win, Westmeath will be hoping to make a positive start to their Allianz Football League Division Two campaign against Laois at Cusack Park on Sunday.

The Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup initially brought pain in the form of a comprehensive defeat to an experimental Meath outfit before Westmeath improved significantly. Two hard-earned triumphs over DCU and Longford ended Westmeath’s barren run as a drop of confidence was restored to the Midlanders’ system.

Relegated from the top flight following seven straight defeats the 2014 League proved to be a disaster for Westmeath, who had been so resourceful in 2013 when securing promotion.

Relocating the grit of that campaign is one of the things recently installed manager Tom Cribben wants to do. There is talent in Westmeath, and how a team and panel is stitched together ahead of the Leinster Championship will be interesting to monitor.

With home matches against Laois and Galway to start the spring adventure, Westmeath are ideally placed to put some crucial League points into their account. It promises to be a highly competitive pool with Down, Roscommon, Cavan, Meath, and Kildare also in the reckoning so the margin for error will be slim.

Generating hope and momentum is the tough task Westmeath are currently embracing, but the spirited manner in which the team recovered from the disappointing Meath loss is encouraging. The Allianz League Division 2 pool is an altogether different proposition, but Westmeath were heartened by how they dealt with DCU and Longford.

With the Sigerson Cup commencing, the students in the Westmeath set-up are currently experiencing a busy schedule, but Cribben has spoken about his desire to blend youth with experience.

Laois can be a potent side when in the mood and despite a mixed O’Byrne Cup they were unfortunate to lose to Dublin by the narrowest of margins. Donie Kingston was impressive in that encounter while Brendan Quigley’s ability to gather possession at centrefield is proven. Throughout the past few years Darren Strong and John O’Loughlin have the pace and power to attack from deep so Westmeath will be anxious to deny the visitors space. It is particularly early in the GAA calendar, but this match carries huge value for both Westmeath and Laois.

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