Encouraged by a fine Allianz Hurling League campaign, Westmeath will be hoping to cause a Leinster Championship round robin series shock when hosting neighbours Offaly at Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Sunday.
Michael Ryan’s improving team claimed the Division 2A title with a narrow win against Carlow, but were subsequently denied promotion to Division 1B following a play-off defeat to Laois. That match showed Westmeath that they still have some distance left to travel, but Ryan was able to reflect on a satisfactory spring. Now the objective is to earn a top two spot to advance to the knockout stages of the provincial championship.
Offaly enjoyed some productive moments in the league themselves, defeating Laois and Wexford, but the defeat against Kerry in Birr in their most recent competitive fixture was disappointing. Ryan has invested heavily in youth in the past 18 months, ensuring Westmeath carry hope and expectation into Sunday’s encounter.
Throughout the course of the past decade, Westmeath have attempted to develop at underage level, so the standard of hurler being produced is improving. The next month, though, will be revealing as Westmeath seek to remain in the All-Ireland series. Matches with Offaly, Kerry, and Carlow carry different types of challenges, but Ryan will have Westmeath primed for three crucial battles.