Preview of the Allianz National Football League Division 2 clash between Westmeath and Galway
They may be near neighbours, they may wear the same colours but Westmeath and Galway are coming into this game from different positions.
Twelve months ago, Galway were playing with the big boys in Division 1 while Westmeath were hosting the likes of Waterford in Division 3. Galway had an annus mirabilis and were relegated while a Dessie Dolan inspired Westmeath side finished top of the heap in Division 3 and now find themselves in the higher Division.
Westmeath received an unexpected blow to their league chances when Dolan’s Garrycastle saw off near neighbours, St Brigids in the All-Ireland club semi-final and now they will have to carry on without with the great Dessie and his club mates until after March 17th.
This means that they will not only miss this game, but another two extremely testing games against Tyrone and Monaghan. The evidence so far would seem to suggest that the sooner they are back the better as after two games, Westmeath are propping up the table.
In round 1, they travelled to Haggardstown and lost by three points to Louth while in round 2, they faced arch rivals, Meath and were duly handed their proverbials on a plate as Meath went to town on them, winning by 0-17 to 0-5.
The word on the street in Westmeath is that not all is well within the camp and their poor start to the league has already been raised at county board level with one delegate stating that the senior football team was in crisis. Manager, Pat Flanagan fought back declaring that the comments were harsh. From a playing point of view, they will be boosted by John Heslin’s return from Australia and he will be expected to feature at some stage on Sunday.
Galway look to have recovered from a terrible year in 2011 and are unbeaten in their two games to date. They did surprise a lot of people by going up to Derry and beating the hosts.
They were equally surprising in their second game when they could only manage a draw with Louth. However, this is a brand new Galway team, backboned by several players from last year’s Under 21 All-Ireland winning team and a little bit of inconsistency can be expected.
For this game, Galway welcome back veteran midfielder, Joe Bergin while Padraic Joyce and Sean Armstrong who have only just returned to training are not risked this week. There are many unrecognisable names on this Galway team and it will be interesting to see how Alan Mulholland’s side develops as the year progresses. With Nicky Joyce, Paul Conroy and Mark Hehir in their forward line, Galway are likely to have too much for Westmeath who look doomed to return from whence they came.