Galway footballers seek to seal pole position

Galway come up against Westmeath in Mullingar on Saturday looking to confirm at least a place in the preliminary quarter-final of this year’s All-Ireland championship.

A Galway win would ensure Westmeath cannot catch them and also leave the Tribesmen in pole position to qualify straight for a quarter-final before they face Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh in the final group game.

Westmeath, however, will be no pushover as the Tailteann Cup champions pushed Armagh all the way in their opening game before finally coming up just short by 1-13 to 1-12.

In his first year as manager Westmeath legend, Dessie Dolan guided his side to third position in division three, just coming up short for promotion to division two, but as the inaugural Tailteann Cup champions, they were guaranteed a position in the renovated Sam Maguire competition. Westmeath have suffered two championship defeats so far in 2023, losing to Louth in the Leinster championship before last weekend’s defeat to Armagh.

Galway enter the game as heavy favourites, based on both last year’s performances and their current form, but Westmeath’s display in their narrow loss last weekend shows they have plenty of fight and ability within their side.

Armagh escaped with the victory thanks to a flurry of late scores, outscoring their opposition 1-3 to 0-2 in the final 10 minutes - the goal coming from Conor Turbitt after a long high ball eluded the Westmeath defence.

Attacking through the middle, the Lake County will be very strong, with Connellan in midfield, O’Toole at centre forward, and John Heslin at full forward. The 30-years-old Heslin is his county’s top scorer in championship football after overtaking his manager in the 2022 Tailteann Cup final.

Having defeated Tyrone in a lacklustre performance in Salthill last time out, Galway manager Padraic Joyce will be eager for his side to showcase their skills on Saturday evening and guarantee their progression. With the star-studded forward line at his disposal and the fine weather promised, Joyce will be hoping Walsh, Comer, and co will be able to give a better attacking display than they delivered against Tyrone, especially when the 2021 All-Ireland champions went down to 14 men.

Galway’s stand-out players against Tyrone were Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid and first-half substitute Cathal Sweeney. These players did have the space around the middle to drive and start an attack against Tyrone's defensive set-up, but the Galway forwards will be eager to find a way to influence the game with a strong attacking display of football.

This weekend will see Galway face Westmeath in championship football for just the second time - in 2006 the Tribesmen lost to Westmeath in a qualifier game in Salthill, 1-08 to 0-10. Joyce, who was playing that day, will be sure to remind his players not to take it lightly.

The game throws in at 5pm in Cusack Park, but will not be shown on TV or GAAGO. Anyone unable to travel can listen to the game on the radio. This is disappointing considering GAAGO is able to stream two games at 3pm, but for some reason only the one game at 5pm.


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