Resilient Armagh ready for Westmeath battle

12 months on from overcoming Westmeath by one-point, Armagh are facing the exact same situation this weekend. The Orchard County overcame Dessie Dolan’s side to kickstart their All-Ireland charge with a victory.

They’d just lost the Ulster final to Derry via penalties and were well below par when Westmeath came to down. But they had enough resolve to call upon and a late Conor Turbitt goal saw them advance by the minimum of margins.

This year, it’s a case of déjà vu as Armagh once again begin their All-Ireland series with a home game against the Lake County. The heartache of Armagh’s most recent penalty shootout defeat will surely still linger inside that changing room.

But Saturday offers a chance for Kieran McGeeney’s men to bounce back and begin a new competition. By the looks of things, they’ll have to do so without Rian O’Neill and Greg McCabe. Both men have been dropped from the starting team.

See the Armagh team news: Armagh announce team for Westmeath meeting

12 months on from overcoming Westmeath by one-point, Armagh are facing the exact same situation this weekend.
Photo Credit: Richiespics

McCabe retains his spot in the matchday panel, but O’Neill will be out completely this weekend. In their places, Conor O’Neill and Tiernan Kelly have been recalled to the starting line-up.

Other than that, it’s as you were for the Armagh team. Although the likes of Aidan Nugent, Oisin O’Neill and Jason Duffy could expect more game time. Not only do Armagh have last year to reflect on but Westmeath have already claimed some silverware this year.

In the Division Three league final against Down, Westmeath simply parked the bus and denied the Mourne County any real goalscoring opportunities. They rattled off two majors of their own which were the difference in the end.

Westmeath’s league momentum failed to carry through to the championship, however. They fell at the first hurdle in Leinster, losing out to Oisin McConville’s Wicklow by the minimum of margins.

They’ve had six weeks to recover from that unexpected provincial exit and compared to Armagh’s 13-day turnaround, Westmeath should be much fresher and more alert heading into the group stages.

12 months on from overcoming Westmeath by one-point, Armagh are facing the exact same situation this weekend.
Photo Credit: Richiespics

And as they showed last year, they have enough quality in their ranks to really cause Armagh trouble. While John Heslin in the headline grabber in the Westmeath attack, he’s certainly not the only fire the home side will have to put out.

Ronan O’Toole was the Westmeath goal scorer in their 1-13 to 1-12 defeat in 2023 and he pulled the strings at centre half forward. Luke Loughlin, scorer of 0-2, was another who caught the eye.

Armagh should have learned the harsh lessons of last year and won’t take Westmeath for granted, but bouncing back from another crushing shootout defeat could take time. If Armagh aren’t properly prepared for this one, it could be a long afternoon in the Cathedral City.

Check out last years match report: Orchard overcome tough Westmeath test