Mourne County aiming to secure promotion in Westmeath

By Shaun Casey

WHILE not mathematically secured just yet, it looks likely that Sunday’s contest in TEG Cusack Park between Westmeath and Down could well be a dress rehearsal for a Division Three league final.

The two teams currently sit at the top of the pile with an unblemished record of five wins from five outings and those winning streaks will be put on the line this weekend.

A victory for each side will confirm their place in not only a league final, but more importantly take them a step closer to a place in the Sam Maguire Cup along with a spot in Division Two next season.

From the outset, Down and Westmeath have been hotly tipped for promotion and while Clare, who currently claim third spot, have been a bit of a surprise package, everything looks to be going pretty much to form.

Down have proven much too strong for a lot of teams they have faced with Wicklow and Offaly the only teams that really ran them close while Conor Laverty’s side have defeated Limerick and Sligo by double-digit margins.

Antrim gave them a run for their money at Corrigan Park with an early goal asking questions of the visiting side, but they eventually pulled away to overpower the Saffrons and win by nine points in the end.

Odhrán Murdock was absent in their 2-17 to 1-8 win over Sligo and their towering midfield will be a huge miss around the middle of the park if he isn’t fit to return against Westmeath.

The players on the field more than made up for it against Tony McEntee’s Sligo with Ceilum Doherty staring in defence and hitting 1-2 James Guinness rattling the net and Pat Havern top scoring with 0-7.

Down have been racking up big tallies and while Havern is the go-to attacker for the men in red and black, having hit 0-29 in five games, there’s plenty of others around the park that are well able to chip in.

Doherty, James Guinness, Liam Kerr, Ryan Johnston, Murdock and Daniel Guinness have all raised green flags throughout the campaign while 18 players in all have got on the scoresheet across their five fixtures.

Although Westmeath are on the same points tally as this weekend’s opponents, their results and scoring contributions haven’t been as eye-catching, although the 2022 Tailteann Cup winners do have some brilliant players to call upon.

Westmeath’s five outings have all been against teams that are at the bottom end of the table fighting off the threat of relegation, while their remaining two fixtures are against Down and Sligo.

Still, the biggest winning tally for Dessie Dolan’s side this season as been their round three win over Oisin McConville’s Wicklow while they’ve only hit the net three times compared to Down’s ten goals.

That would all suggest that Down have the superior scoring power between the two sides and that all points to an away victory.

Westmeath will pose a tough test of course, but one Down should come through to secure promotion not only in the league, but championship too.

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