All to play for on final day of Leinster SHC qualifying

3/5/20015 Laois cahir healy seamus loughran pic seamus loughran
Padraig Kelly

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Qualifying Group

Westmeath v Meath (tomorrow, TEG Cusack Park, 3pm)

IT’S not exactly winner takes all in Mullingar but it’s not far off it in this derby clash.

A home win, coupled with a Laois victory over Kerry, would secure Westmeath a place in the Leinster Championship proper despite Michael Ryan’s side losing their first two games.

A win for Meath should be good enough, although scoring difference will come into play if the Kingdom prevail.

It’s been a remarkable rise for the Royal county who were playing in Division 2B this year. They haven’t looked overawed at all and started the Qualifying Group with a six-point win over Kerry.

Martin Ennis will be hoping to have captain Damien Healy back as he missed the Laois match through injury while Keith Keoghan is available as his dismissal last time out was for two yellow card offences.

Westmeath have endured a difficult season to date, but they will be disappointed to be sitting on zero points after two rounds.

They lost to Laois by three points and Kerry by two, so it’s small margins that are killing them.

Ryan said this week that they have properly addressed the issues that cost them in those games, so he will be expecting an improvement.

Both these teams can qualify out of the group and both can be relegated to the Christy Ring, so a tense afternoon is in store.

Odds: H: 4/9 D: 10/1 A: 2/1

Verdict: Westmeath


Kerry v Laois (tomorrow, Austin Stack Park, 3pm)

KERRY will be aiming to get some revenge on Laois in Tralee tomorrow, re-igniting their qualification hopes in the process.

The O’Moore men confined Kerry to season in 2A after a thrilling relegation play-off last month when extra-time was required to separate the sides.

That 1-30 to 4-20 win seems to have really boosted Eamonn Kelly’s Laois side as they opened their Leinster qualifying campaign with wins over Westmeath and Meath.

While Laois are the only team in the group that can’t be relegated to the Christy Ring, they are still vulnerable of missing out on a quarter-final spot – although results in both games would really need to go against them.

They will be weakened here though as they will be without Cahir Healy (hamstring) while Willie Dunphy will miss out having suffered a concussion in the win over Meath. Ryan Mullaney and John Lennon have returned to training though.

Fintan O’Connor’s Kerry side have been relying too heavily on Shane Nolan (1-16) and Mike Boyle (1-5) to date. Between them they have amassed 2-21 of Kerry’s 2-37 total and if Nolan, in particular, is tied up, they are in trouble.

This is a must-win game for them though, and home advantage might just allow them to find a way to take the points.

Odds: H: 11/10 D: 8/1 A: 10/11

Verdict: Kerry

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