Settled Fermanagh have strength in depth and edge to deny Westmeath

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 4A, Kingspan Breffni Park, Saturday, 5pm (Live on Sky Sports 3)

The wheels of fortune are always spinning in opposite directions in the fourth round qualifiers: Westmeath’s spinning backward after their Leinster final defeat to Dublin; Fermanagh’s spinning forward after their qualifier wins over Antrim and then Roscommon.

Unfortunately for Westmeath they've also lost top-scorer and key playmaker John Heslin, who fractured a heal bone in that 13-point defeat to Dublin. He may recover in time for a quarter-final, should Westmeath get through, yet his loss may well be the difference in deciding that.

Team captain Ger Egan also misses out on his starting place with a groin strain, although manager Tom Cribbin may well parachute him from the subs bench if needed. David Lynch also moves down to the bench, with Kieran Gavin, John Connellan and Denis Glennon all coming into the starting 15 instead.

Glennon - named at full forward - always promises a big performance and now is the time for it, because Fermanagh are not here without considerable merit. They may have upset most predictions by beating Roscommon the last day, but they did produce a strong challenge to Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final.


Gavin's return may prove crucial for Westmeath too, the former captain resuming his full back duties after long-term injury, and poised to take on the difficult task of marking Fermanagh's outright top championship scorer, Sean Quigley. John Gilligan, named at wing forward, is almost certain to drop back, even if Westmeath will play a slightly less defensive game than they need against Dublin.

Indeed much will be depend of Cribbin’s tactical approach, and whether Westmeath will play with the near abandonment that saw them claw back Meath in the Leinster semi-final. Fermanagh look impressively settled, reflected in the fact manager Pete McGrath has named an unchanged selection.

Tomas Corrigan, who hit 0-5 against Roscommon, is fit to start despite some fears over a hamstring strain, while his brother Ruairi (who came off the bench the last day to hit 0-1) suggests Fermanagh also have plenty in reserve, including the likes of Che Cullen, Conall Jones and Damien Kelly. Those reserves, particularly of scoring forwards, should just about squeeze Fermanagh through.

The lowdown
Last meeting:
Only their third championship meeting, the last being the round 1 qualifier in 2013, when Fermanagh won 3-10 to Westmeath's 1-15.
Betting: Westmeath 11/8, Fermanagh 5/6, Draw 7/1.
Just the ticket: €20 adults; Juveniles free of charge; Student/OAPs €15. Tickets can be purchased at venue; Seating is unreserved in the O Riain stand.
Injuries: John Heslin is the big loss for Westmeath, with a foot injury, while Ger Egan is nursing a groin strain and only listed on the bench. Tomas Corrigan fit to start for Fermanagh despite some fears otherwise.
WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Kevin Maguire, Kieran Gavin, Frank Boyle; Killian Daly, Paddy Holloway, James Dolan; Denis Corroon, Paul Sharry; John Gilligan, Ray Connellan, Kieran Martin; John Connellan, Denis Glennon, Shane Dempsey.
FERMANAGH: Thomas Treacy; Michael Jones, Tiernan Daly, Niall Cassidy; Martin O'Brien, Ryan McCluskey, James McMahon; Eoin Donnelly, Richard O'Callaghan; Declan McCusker, Paul McCusker, Barry Mulrone; Tomas Corrigan, Sean Quigley, Ryan Jones. Verdict: Fermanagh.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics