Paul Bealin begins Westmeath reign with home clash against Dublin
Visitors in experimental mode for clash in Mullingar
New Westmeath manager Paul Bealin. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
GAA PREVIEWS: IAN O’RIORDAN:
O’Byrne Cup SF Round 1 -
“No, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be welcoming Dublin to Mullingar,” says Paul Bealin, and justifiably so. The 1995 All-Ireland winner with Dublin was certainly a surprise choice to replace Pat Flanagan, who failed to get another season with Westmeath despite guiding them to division one of the Allianz Football League, and Bealin also now marks his first competitive outing in charge against his former Dublin All-Ireland winning team mate Jim Gavin.
It’s also the pick of tomorrow’s opening round of games of the O’Byrne Cup, even though the action itself gets underway this evening when Louth host DCU under the floodlights at Haggardstown (7.30). What is certain too is that while Dublin and Westmeath are at opposite ends of the football spectrum, tomorrow’s game in Mullingar (2.0) will provide some useful pointers towards more current form, or indeed lack of it.
Gavin has already given several of his All-Ireland winners a nice run out on New Year’s Eve with a convincing win in the Dubs Stars challenge, but he’ll be going more experiment for this: Bernard Brogan, James McCarthy, Paddy Andrews and Dean Rock will sit out January, while eight panellists will be lining out with their colleges. Bealin is also without as many players due to college commitments, and while Denis Glennon is also out injured, Dessie Dolan is likely to feature.
Defending O’Byrne Cup champions Kildare (remember their extra-time win over Dublin last year?) open up with a home tie against Athlone IT (Newbridge, 2.0) and again new manager Jason Ryan will be forced to use mostly fringe players, with his current list of absent names including Eamonn Callaghan, Eoin Doyle, Niall Kelly, Peter Kelly, Alan Smith, Keith Cribbin and Jonathan Byrne.
Meath host DIT (Pairc Tailteann 2.0) and manager Mick O’Dowd has named a reasonably strong team that includes forwards Eamon Wallace and Mickey Newman, with Conor Gillespie captaining the team from midfield. Elsewhere, Wexford host Laois (New Ross, 2.0), Offaly host UCD (O’Connor Park, 2.0) Carlow host Longford (Carlow, 2.0), and Wicklow host IT Carlow (Ashford, 2.0).
McGrath Cup SF quarter-finals -
The unfortunate boycotting of this year’s competition by Clare, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary - in protest of the Munster Council’s decision to revert to a seeded football championship - effectively reduces this competition to a shoot-out between Kerry and Cork, presuming they aren’t taken out by one of the college teams along the way.
Kerry, lest anyone forget, are defending champions, and manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has included six players that featured in last September’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin for tomorrow’s quarter-final against Tralee IT (Tralee, 2.0), including Mark Griffin and Shane Enright, midfielder Anthony Maher, forward Donnchadh Walsh, and subs Jack Sherwood and David Moran. With 2014 captain Colm Cooper focused on club duty with Dr Crokes, Walsh will captain the team.