Westmeath vow to go on the attack against Armagh

Westmeath manager Colin Kelly guided Louth to back-to-back promotions before taking over the Lakemen, who face Armagh this weekend. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Westmeath manager Colin Kelly guided Louth to back-to-back promotions before taking over the Lakemen, who face Armagh this weekend. Picture by Seamus Loughran

WESTMEATH boss Colin Kelly says that they will continue to play an expansive game as they build towards a potential crunch Division Three clash with Armagh this weekend.

The Lakemen started their promotion push with a potentially priceless win away to a Derry side that could yet be in the shake-up towards the top end of the division.

With four home fixtures to come, including Sunday’s meeting with Kieran McGeeney’s men and the visit of Rory Gallagher’s Fermanagh in round five, the fate of last year’s Division Four champions is in their own hands as they seek back-to-back promotions.

Westmeath’s recent championship record has been alien in comparison to their poor league form of the past few seasons. They reached back-to-back Leinster finals in 2015 and 2016, although they were criticised for employing a gameplan founded in damage limitation against Dublin on both occasions.

After suffering a hiding by the Dubs in the provincial semi-final last year, they had their championship campaign ended by Armagh in a see-saw qualifier in Mullingar.

The sides will renew acquaintances on Sunday for a game that could ultimately have a huge bearing on promotion but Kelly insists his side’s favourable fixture list does not make them favourites to go up.

"It was [a big win over Derry] but what’s the point in looking at the fixture list? Why look at Armagh when you haven't played Derry? Why look at Fermanagh when you haven't played Armagh?

“If we can go and beat Armagh on Sunday, then we roll on to the Wexford match.

"I have been in this situation before when you have to get teams out of divisions and you cannot look ahead of yourself.

“You cannot pick what fixtures you are going to win and what fixtures you are not going to win, all you can do is be the best you can be on any given Sunday and prepare as well as you can during the week.

“Hopefully then the lads trust each other well enough to go out and deliver the type of performance they did against Derry.”

They hit 2-17 in Celtic Park, boosted by a two-goal head-start inside five minutes when they were playing into the Derry city ground’s trademark wind from behind the Brandywell End terrace.

John Heslin was to the fore as ever, while Callum McCormack also impressed on the inside forward line.

The other side of the coin was the concession of 2-14, and they were ultimately fortunate to emerge with victory after Enda Lynn missed an injury time penalty for the Oak Leafers.

Kelly, who guided Louth to back-to-back promotions from the fourth tier to Division Two before stepping down at the end of last season, says that attacking will continue to be the order of the day for his side.

"In those conditions to kick 2-17 is a big feat and one that is pleasing from a coaching perspective.

"When I assessed the panel of players I am working with every one of them has a huge skillset. There is talent that is unbelievable within the group so why would you not try to push on and play at times like we played today?

"We've coughed up 1-4 or 1-5 through our own errors but that is the type of game we want to play rather than sitting back and trying to shut teams down.

“We want to try and win games. That's what we are trying to do and it probably caught us a bit at the end of the match today but we are going home with the two points, which is great.”

Westmeath are understood to have lodged an appeal against the red card given to centre-back Sam Duncan during the game against Derry, with the one-match ban currently set to rule him out on Sunday’s game.