A POTENTIAL suspension cloud hanging over Westmeath full-back Kevin Maguire has been lifted ahead of their Leinster SFC semi-final against Meath on Sunday week.
Initial delight at the Lake County's weekend victory charge over Wexford was tempered by fears that Maguire could be forced to serve a one-match ban against the Royals.
This was because the Caulry clubman had accumulated two black cards as well as one sending-off (for a double-yellow dismissal) while on Westmeath duty this season.
In normal circumstances this would result in a one-match suspension - but not here because Maguire's first black card, ironically against Meath last January, doesn't count as it happened in the O'Byrne Cup.
A Croke Park official confirmed that the rule is "very specific" in that it covers an accumulation of cards in the national football league and the inter-county championship - but not the pre-season provincial tournaments. "The situation would be that Kevin Maguire has two strikes at the moment," he added.
Subsequent to his O'Byrne Cup black, Maguire was sent of for two yellow cards against Down in March and then, against Wexford, he received another black after 55 minutes.
"There were concerns about it last Sunday, but I kind of had an idea that he would be okay," county board chairman Seán Sheridan told The Herald.
The full-back is a pivotal member of the Westmeath defence, even more so given the inexperience of rookie corner-back duo Killian Daly and Paddy Holloway and the absence, so far this season, of Kieran Gavin.
"If he gets another (black card) he misses a game," said Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin. "But this is our All-Ireland basically - there is no point in us thinking about any more games. We are stepping to a higher level."
He added: "Killian Daly is in his first year; Paddy Holloway is in his first year. What we have, basically, coming after that are young lads that we need to develop, so you wouldn't want to be losing your experienced man in the full-back line."
According to Cribbin, it remains touch-and-go whether former captain Gavin will be fit to make the match-day squad of 26 against Meath as he continues his long recuperation from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last August.
The Mullingar Shamrocks man played a club match at the weekend and is "improving a good bit" every week, but Cribbin cautioned: "The unfortunate thing is that when he plays a match or does a tough training session, the recovery is taking three or four days. So he cannot do normal training. That is probably just because he is stepping up to a new level each time."