Nobody said it was going to be easy, and so far at least, division one certainly hasn’t been easy for the footballers of Westmeath. With three rounds played they are still seeking their first points of the campaign and are left propping up the table.
Perhaps most worryingly of all is their score difference of -27, with Donegal the second worse at -10. Having rightly earned a reputation of a mean defence over the past few seasons, and particularly last year, such a score difference could hardly have been comprehended at the start of the season.
In truth the blame does not lie fully at the door of the present defensive sextet but has more to do with the players we are missing around the middle of the field and indeed up front. Like it or lump it, we do not have the strength in depth, at present, to be competing in division one. With a full hand to pick from I have no doubt we are good enough to maintain our division one status but with a number of key players absent through injury nothing short of a miracle will be needed to stay up.
In one of Paidi’s memorable pre-match talks, I think it was before the Kerry game in Cusack Park, he asked (much to our amusement ) how we would react when we met a hairy period. Well the current squad are slap bang in the middle of what Paidi would classify as a hairy period at present, and it will be interesting to see how they react.
Having lost heavily last Sunday to Mayo (1-13 to 0-08 ) confidence must be low, and with Tyrone and Kerry in the next two games it certainly seems like a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Last Sunday’s Mayo team were mediocre at best but had little difficulty in running out easy winners against our inexperienced side. Home advantage this weekend is a plus for the Lakelanders but unless all of our injuries clear up overnight, it is hard to be confident against the reigning All-Ireland champions, particularly given that Tyrone themselves are in need of points.
Tyrone impressively accounted for Dublin in their opening game but have since lost to both Kerry and Galway. Mickey Harte’s men will be more than anxious to get back to winning ways on their visit to Cusack Park, a fact which Sean Kavanagh has already made clear.
Westmeath nearly caused a massive upset when these sides met last summer in Omagh but in truth that will have little bearing on Sunday’s game. Dessie Dolan and John Smyth are expected to be back in action this weekend which will certainly add a bit of bite to our forward division.
Niall Kilcoyne and David Duffy who competed well in midfield against Mayo are likely to make up the midfield pairing.
There were a few short-priced favourites turned over in Presbury Park this week and Westmeath folk will be hoping that another one bites the dust in Cusack Park on Sunday. Anything is possible.
Westmeath Hurlers restore pride
Given the events of the previous week, not too many were expecting Westmeath’s hurlers to take anything from this game. Seven days previously, our hurlers lost at home (heavily ) to Down while at the same time Antrim accounted for Wexford.
Determined to restore pride, and I’m sure make a statement about our exclusion from the Leinster championship at the expense of Antrim, Eamonn Gallagher’s men certainly accomplished their mission in Casement Park Belfast.
A late point gave Westmeath a well- deserved draw after a battling performance in difficult conditions. This win will certainly raise the mood in the camp and let’s hope all concerned can build on the performance going forward.
Under 21 footballers
Westmeat’s highly rated u21 team are in action in the Leinster semi-final on Saturday week (March 21 )against Dublin in Parnell Park. Dublin will be difficult to beat on their own home patch, but with the right attitude this Westmeath team can go far. John Connellan is an injury doubt at present but hopefully will have recovered in time to lead the attack.
Dublin enjoyed a one point win over Meath in their quarter final. Kildare and Laois will contest the second semi-final.
Roscommon travel to Drogheda
Division three table-toppers Roscommon are away to Louth this weekend. The Rossies impressively accounted for Longford last weekend. Louth who had been in flying form were brought down to earth with a bang by Offaly in Tullamore.
This will be an important test for Fergal O’Donnell’s men as they go in search of promotion. Louth need a win badly and home advantage will be a help to them. Yet if Roscommon continue to improve as they have been, a win is certainly within their reach.