• GAA

Westmeath/AIT match moved to Moate

Thursday, 3rd January, 2013 12:05pm

Story by Tom Kelly
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Westmeath/AIT match moved to Moate

Pat Flanagan

Westmeath/AIT match moved to Moate

Pat Flanagan

Sunday's Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Group C opener between Westmeath and Athlone Institute of Technology will not take place Athlone's Páirc Chiarán as previously advertised.

With the Athlone venue forecast to be unplayable, the Leinster senior football series fixture has been moved to Hogan Park, Moate, with the throw-in still at 2pm.

The return of veteran All-Star Des Dolan aside, Lake County Gaels can expect to see some new faces blooded in the Westmeath vanguard, with some key forwards - namely Ger Egan (Tyrrellspass), Kieran Martin (Maryland) and James Dolan (Garrycastle) - lining out for AIT for the duration of the O'Byrne Cup campaign.

Another key absentee is marquee midfielder John Heslin (St Loman's), who will tog out for UCD. But the return of David Duffy (Shandonagh) and the inclusion of Aidan Browne (Garrycastle) and Mullingar Shamrocks pair Darragh Daly and Denis Corroon gives Flanagan more options alongside Athlone's Paul Bannon at centrefield.

Forward Alan Giles (Coralstown/Kinnegad) and defender Darren Malynn (Maryland) are also absent through injury, while Kieran Sheridan (Ballynacargy) and Stephen Gilmore (St Loman's) are involved with DCU.

But Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan is happy to have at his disposal a "large and young panel" hungry to succeed in the series.

"The spirit we showed in the Kerry [All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers] game last year was hugely valuable, and there's an excellent buzz and huge commitment among the 39 lads we have," the Clara native said.

"As far as I'm concerned, Westmeath are underachieving with the amount of talent available. We've got to get these guys in the frame of mind of winning."

Flanagan also welcomes the O'Byrne Cup's new league phase. "It's going to be a better system than the previous ones. We're guaranteed at least three games," he said.

"As it turned out, it's all local teams involved, so it'll bring a bit of bite into it. That's better for football, for the competition and for supporters."

In Group C, the Lake County also face an away trip against Laois later in the week (January 9, Portlaoise, 7.30pm), followed by Offaly on January 13.

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