Maroon armies go to war in Cusack park

Galway will take on neighbours Westmeath this Sunday in round two of the All-Ireland series.

Galway will take on neighbours Westmeath this Sunday in round two of the All-Ireland series.

Round two of the All-Ireland series will see Galway play Westmeath this Sunday afternoon at 3pm in TEG Cusack Park.

After their first round victory over Derry - and Westmeath’s subsequent loss to Armagh - Galway know that a win over the Lake County will guarantee progression to a preliminary quarter final at the very least.

Dessie Dolan’s side ran Armagh close for the first 35 minutes of their game. However five early second half points from Kieran McGeeney’s side put them in control. Despite two last points coming from the boot of John Heslin, the Orchard county won easier than last year’s clash, 0-16 to 0-11.

Galway’s 2024 group stage has thrown up many similarities to the group of 2023. Galway played Tyrone in the first round, in which an early red card for the visitors led to what seemed like the game's inevitable outcome. For the second fixture in their group Galway travelled to Mullingar to play Westmeath, and in their final game they played an Armagh side on the lookout for revenge following the previous year’s quarter final loss.

In the 2023 fixture against their close neighbours, Galway's efforts were laboured for large parts of the game. Damien Comer’s introduction made the difference on the day, with his side just a single point up after 55 minutes. He quickly fired over two points which led to a flattering full-time score-line of 0-20 to 0-12. Galway then went on to narrowly lose to Armagh in their final game, finishing second in the group.

Manager Padraic Joyce has stated his side's aim for this group is to finish top and avoid having an extra game. They can move very close to it with a win this weekend.

Joyce will be sweating over the fitness of three key players after Comer, Rob Finnerty and his captain Seán Kelly all left the field with injuries against Derry. Finnerty has been in excellent form this championship campaign, having already scored 1-21. Kelly’s importance as captain in this team can never be underestimated - but both of these players seemed to have been taken off as a precautionary measure.

Comer, on the other hand, never seemed to fully recover after being stamped on in the first half, and will be the biggest worry. The Annaghdown club man had been very impressive against Mayo in his first game of an injury ravaged season. To see him limping off in just his second game back will have been a huge worry for Joyce.

Galway will go into this game as favourites, and having welcomed back so many experienced players from injury in the last two to three games, it is understandable to see why.

Shane Walsh appears to be playing himself back into the sort of form that won him an All-Star in 2022. His experience will be badly needed if his side are to continue to improve. Matthew Tierney also had a very impressive return to the starting team.

Galway will certainly have to go out and earn a win against a Westmeath side that are staring down the barrel of another early championship exit.

 

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