Sunday 23 October 2016

Westmeath to shade battle of wannabes

WESTMEATH v FERMANAGH (Breffni Park, Today 5.0, Live SKY)

THERE are lots of plausible reasons why Westmeath's big adventure might end in a Cavan anti-climax this evening.

Consider the following ...

Fermanagh have momentum after two 'back door' victories, including one rousing comeback against Roscommon. Compare that to a Westmeath team left licking its Leinster final wounds.

The Ernesiders won promotion to Division Two last spring, swapping places with their relegated rivals.

Fermanagh will have no fears of a Westmeath team that they vanquished, on enemy turf, two summers ago.

And now they face them on familiar Cavan soil, scene of their recent Ulster semi-final against Monaghan.

Pete McGrath can rely on Seán Quigley, wonderfully prolific all season ... whereas Tom Cribbin must seek to engineer a winning total without the services of his go-to forward talisman, the injured John Heslin. Another forward option, Callum McCormack, is crocked while skipper Ger Egan is only fit enough for bench duty ...

At this stage, some of the glass half-empty brigade from Athlone and Mullingar may be contemplating an afternoon at home instead of in Ulster, nervously watching events unfold from behind an armchair.

Time, then, for some perspective. Fermanagh showed great late resolve against Ros but, in truth, the escape hatch should have been slammed shut in their faces.

Moreover, losing to a previously rampant Dublin by 13 points would suggest Westmeath can take some solace from a rearguard action that proved quite successful for close to 40 minutes.

Provided management has done its job, the team should be able to approach this qualifier with a relatively positive mindset. They should view the draw against a fellow wannabe, not with trepidation but as a great opportunity to copperfasten this summer's progress by advancing to a quarter-final date with Kerry.

To do so, however, they must transition between defence and attack far more fluidly. One presumes they will ditch or moderate the extreme blanket defence used against Dublin - and then hope the recalled Denis Glennon and John Connellan can provide the cutting edge to complement Kieran Martin.

We've a hunch they will.

ODDS: Westmeath 11/8 Draw 15/2 Fermanagh 4/5

VERDICT: Westmeath

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