Westmeath face a difficult challenge this weekend as they travel north to take on reigning league champions Derry in Ballinascreen at 2.30pm on Sunday. Having lost the opening round against Galway, an away win would be a welcome tonic to O’Flatharta’s men. Derry had two points to spare over Mayo in their first round clash and will not want to go down in their first home game of the season.
On a positive note, Westmeath can look back to their last trip to Foyleside for inspiration. Two years ago when the sides last met in league action, the Lakelanders made the long journey north a successful one by somewhat unexpectedly claiming both points on offer. A repeat of that result is not out of the question even though the home side will deservedly wear the favourites’ tag.
Westmeaths biggest challenge is sorting out our midfield sector. In the absence of Martin Flanagan, we are lacking the physical edge needed to compete in this vital sector. Paul Bannon who was stretchered off against Galway is back training, but will not be fit enough to tog on Sunday. David O’Shaughnessy is back on the panel this year, but is not expected to be in contention for some weeks to come.
David Duffy is the obvious partner for Donie Donoghoe. The Shandonagh man has the potential to play an important role for Westmeath this year. Injury hasn’t helped his early season preparations and even though he is unlikely to be fully match fit he is likely to be in action this Sunday. This is an important year for Duffy if he is nail down a place for the coming years. He certainly has the physique to compete in the air and if his stamina and distribution can improve he could be a major asset in the coming years.
Westmeath’s defence who performed so well for so long against Galway will be keen not to concede any goals, having conceded two the last day. Up front, John Smith is likely to be included in the starting line-up having made a difference when introduced in the second half against the Tribesmen. Dermot Bannon is almost certainly ruled out with an ongoing hamstring problem, which is a further blow to Westmeath’s attacking options.
Westmeath followers will travel more in hope than expectation on Sunday, but with a bit of improvement on the opening round performance likely, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if O’Flatharta’s men caused an upset .
Roscommon can build on winning start.
It is still early in the season but already a fair degree of respectability has been restored to the primrose and blue jersey. An FBD league final appearance and an emphatic opening round win, albeit against an Offaly side in disarray, indicate that Fergal O’Donnell is well on the road to getting the best out of the present crop of players.
Sunday’s game, away to Limerick, will however be a good barometer for O’Donnell’s men. Although Limerick were well beaten by Louth in their opening tie they have been operating at a higher level than the Rossies in the past few years. They will have been stung by the manner of their opening-round defeat and will be keen to make home advantage count.
Confidence is high in Roscommon at present which in itself is an added bonus as the team take to the road. The Rossies can expect a dogfight in Killmallock on Sunday but if Karol Mannion and co hit form they look set to gather another valuable win under their belts.
Westmeath u21s cruise past Offaly
Inspired by Athlone’s John Connellan, who kicked eight points, Westmeath never looked in danger in their Leinster championship opening round game against near neighbours Offaly. Under the guidance of senior manager Tomas O Flatharta, the Lakelanders laid down a marker in Tullamore that they are a force to be reckoned with this year.
Connellan may have been the scorer-in-chief, but victory was down to an impressive team performance. Kieran Gavin, James Dolan, and Simon Moorehead played their part in a solid Westmeath defence. Aidan Browne and Niall Kilcoyne won their battle around the middle of the field while McDaniels, Lynam, and the aforementioned Connellan were part of a potent Westmeath attack.
Kilkenny are next up for Westmeath and barring a nightmare performance, one would expect O’Flatharta’s men to progress to the semi-final. It is probably a bad idea to start counting chickens but, given the strength of this panel of players and the effort they are putting in, they are certainly worth supporting in the weeks ahead.