herald

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Lazarus to get a recall in maroon

Pat Flanagan
Pat Flanagan

Anyone building a case for Offaly to reach a first Leinster semi-final in nine years has an arsenal of ammunition, courtesy of their neighbours to the north.

Westmeath's three relegations on the spin. All kinds of rumblings, true or otherwise, in the wake of their nosedive into Division 4. Players opting out on the cusp of summer.

None of this sounds like a happy camp destined to repeat last summer's run to the Leinster final. And besides, so the revisionist theory goes, was there anything more to that campaign bar 35 outrageous minutes against Meath?

As for Offaly, fresh from putting 2-21 on Longford, surely it's onwards and upwards for a team with momentum and a manager (Pat Flanagan, above) with a point to prove against a county that rewarded him for securing top-flight promotion with his P45?

Given all the above, you've got to wonder why Westmeath are still marginal favourites.

Here are a few possible reasons. They're at home. They beat Offaly here in the league. Their sparkling performance against Louth two weeks ago hinted that they may have turned a corner (government health warnings about inhaling challenge match results duly accepted).

And while the absence of Paul Greville, Shane Dempsey, Ray Connellan and Paddy Holloway leaves the hosts with a threadbare bench, the embattled Tom Cribbin retains a hard core of quality performers.

If Offaly have their marquee forward in Niall McNamee, Westmeath still have John Heslin and Kieran Martin.

Start poorly and the hosts' brittle belief could shatter. Start well and Cribbin may yet do a Lazarus.

ODDS: Westmeath 4/5 Draw 15/2 Offaly 11/8 VERDICT: Westmeath

Leinster SFC:

Westmeath v Offaly, Tomorrow 3.30pm, Mullingar

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