Flanagan sticks with a winning formula for Westmeath

Wexford clash up next as promotion hopes continue

Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 16:12

Westmeath have already declared their hand for round five of the Allianz Football League.

Manager Pat Flanagan is standing by the same team that beat Laois last weekend, and with that extended their unbeaten run in Division Two. Next up is Wexford, this Bank Holiday Monday, and another victory there would leave Westmeath in pole position for promotion to Division One, with just two further rounds to come.

Indeed after 64 games, across all four divisions, only three counties can still boast such an unbeaten record: Dublin (in Division One) and Limerick (in Division Four) have won all four games, while Westmeath have won three (beating Louth, Longford and Laois), and drawn one (with Galway).

Flanagan’s consistency of selection means there is still no starting place for Dessie Dolan, who is once again named among the substitutes.

In fact stealing the spotlight among their forwards is under-21 player John Heslin, who scored 1-7 of their 1-10 against Laois.

Eighth game
Remarkably, that was Heslin’s eighth game in the previous four weeks, although he is now free to concentrate on senior duty, as the Westmeath under-21s were beaten by Wexford, in the Leinster quarter-final, by a single point, after extra-time. At the other end of Division Two, Longford are now in real danger of returning to Division Three just one season after working their way out of it: with four successive defeats already, Glenn Ryan's team could be as good as relegated this weekend if they lose Saturday’s game against Derry, the team pressing hardest for promotion alongside Westmeath.

At least Longford are in good company, as the only other team still without a point from the opening four rounds are Kerry, who host Cork in Tralee this Saturday evening knowing only a victory will keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation.

Cork, however, have a couple of injury concerns, with forward Ciarán Sheehan already ruled out for rest of the league after dislocating his shoulder in last weekend’s win over Tyrone. Donncha O’Connor is also struggling with an Achilles’ tendon injury, and it will be a couple more weeks before Daniel Goulding returns to match fitness.

Dublin host Tyrone
Jim Gavin’s Dublin, meanwhile, will look to extend their unbeaten run when they host Tyrone in Croke Park, also on Saturday evening: Gavin is expected to name his team at a press briefing in Dublin later today, and few changes are expected. One recent addition to his panel is that of 2011 footballer of the year Alan Brogan, who returned to squad training this week following surgery on the long-term groin injury which cut short last year’s season.

Meanwhile, St Brigid’s are the first club to announce their team for Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, the Connacht champions making two changes for their football showdown against Ballymun Kickhams.

Damian Kelleher has been named in the half line and replaces Ger Aherne, with Johnny Murray also coming into the defence in place of Garvan Dolan.
WESTMEATH (SF v Wexford): G Connaughton; M McCallon, K Gavin, K Maguire; M Curley, J Gaffey, J Dolan; D Duffy, J Heslin; G Egan, C McCormack, K Martin; D Corroon, C Curley, D Glennon.
ST BRIGID'S (SF v Ballymun Kickhams): S Curran; G Cunniffe, P Domican, J Murray; N Grehan, D Donnelly, R Stack; K Mannion, I Kilbride; D Kelleher, R Blaine, D Dolan; C McHugh, S Kilbride, F Dolan.