Badly in need of points if they are to have any hope of maintaining their division one status, Westmeath can expect nothing easy when they head west this Sunday to take on Mayo in round three of the Allianz National Football League.
They say it never rains but it pours. Tomas O’Flatharta and his selectors must certainly be thinking the same as their charges have been further hit with injuries in recent weeks. Longer term casualties like Martin Flanagan and Fergal Wilson have already been sorely missed in the opening two games. Dermot Bannon, David Duffy, and Keith Scally have also been added to the lengthening injury list and are doubtful for Sunday’s all-important game.
So too are Dessie Dolan and Donie Donoghoe, two players whose absence would be sorely missed. O’Donoghoe has a calf problem since the Derry game while Dessie pulled a hamstring in training. If either or both of these were unable to tog on Sunday our chances of success would be greatly reduced. Paul Bannon is also just back from injury and is so lacking match practice.
Westmeath’s greatest area of concern is undoubtedly midfield. Our four first-choice midfielders (Flanagan, O’Donoghoe, Duffy, and Bannon ) have injury concerns and it looks likely that Garrycastle’s Aidan Browne could see action.
Mayo have not been firing on all cylinders so far in this campaign, with only one point to show from their first two outings. Having lost narrowly in their opening fixture to Derry, Mayo supporters were given much more cause for optimism with their side’s second half performance against Donegal. In that game they impressively clawed their way back from nine points down, to salvage a draw.
With McHale Park in Castlebar closed, the game is scheduled for Charlestown and is an all ticket affair. Tickets are available in Cusack Park up until 3pm today (Friday ).
Home advantage, added to the confidence gained from the last performance, mean that Mayo are entitled to wear the favourites’ tag. All the more so when one considers how weakened the Lakelanders are likely to be. Yet Westmeath have been working extremely hard in training in recent weeks and, while a win would seem unlikely, it would be a nice time to cause an upset.
Westmeath hurlers Downed
Last Sunday Westmeath’s hurlers suffered a serious reality check when coming out on the wrong side of an eight point defeat to an impressive Down outfit. With the added bonus of home advantage, this was a game Westmeath would have been expected to win. In reality though, two late goals for the men in maroon and white only served to take the bad look off the scoreline. Down were fully deserving of their win on a day when things just didn’t happen for the home side and too many players failed to make an impression.
Eamonn Gallagher’s men have little time to feel sorry for themselves however, and face a difficult trip to Casement Park this weekend where Antrim await. Nothing less than a dramatically improved performance will suffice if they are to get their first points of the campaign.
Derby clash for Roscommon.
Roscommon will be hoping to make amends for their narrow away loss to Limerick in round two when they welcome near neighbours Longford to Hyde Park on Sunday. Fergal O’Donnell’s men will be keen to continue the upward trend in their performances since the beginning of the year. So too will Glenn Ryan’s men who have already a win over Cavan and a draw with Offaly to their credit.
Longford have been badly hit with injury in the early part of the season, but their well-recognised ability to score goals has not deserted them, as demonstrated against Cavan. If Roscommon are to leapfrog their neighbours in the table they are going to have to tighten up at the back and limit any goal-scoring opportunities.
An interesting tie is in store but the home side should just about shade it.