Teams named for Westmeath v Kildare football showdown
The Westmeath and Kildare teams have been named for this Sunday's Leinster senior football semi-final at Croke Park (throw-in 2pm).
Westmeath manager Jack Cooney has opted for an unchanged team from the side which had an emphatic win over Laois in the quarter-finals (3-20 to 1-10).
Boidu Sayeh was replaced by Jack Smith at half-time in the Laois match, but the Rosemount player holds on to his starting place at corner-back. The other Westmeath subs introduced against Laois were Fola Ayorinde, Tommy McDaniel, Darren Giles and Noel Mulligan.
Kildare boss Jack O'Connor has also kept faith with the starting team from their quarter-final, a 1-15 to 0-13 victory against Offaly.
O'Connor, who guided Kerry to Sam Maguire Cup success in 2004, 2006 and 2009, is in his second year in charge of Kildare.
The last championship meeting between Westmeath and Kildare was the 2016 Leinster semi-final, which the Lake men won narrowly, 1-12 to 1-11.
In that 2016 encounter, James Dolan's goal helped Westmeath to claw back Kildare's six-point lead, with the Lake County men eventually claiming a one-point victory. The manager of Westmeath back then was Tom Cribbin and the presence of Cribbin among the current Kildare management team adds another intriguing element to this Sunday's game.
Cribbin remains a very popular figure with Westmeath players and fans alike, having guided the county to two Leinster final appearances in a row (2015 and 2016).
Although Westmeath won the last championship meeting between the counties, Kildare emerged victorious in their last competitive meeting – an Allianz Football League game in Newbridge last October.
Registering a total of 3-20 in the quarter-final win over Laois (even allowing for the paucity of opposition on the day) will surely boost confidence in the Westmeath ranks.
Still, Laois attacker Evan O'Carroll was allowed to score a goal all too easily in the first half of that game. And considering Neil Flynn's display in Kildare's victory over Offaly (against whom he scored 1-7), Westmeath will need to improve defensively.
However, Westmeath must strike the right balance between defending and attacking. An overly defensive approach would detract from the scoring ability shown against Laois, and indeed in the recent relegation play-off against a higher calibre of opponent in Cork.
Westmeath will also be striving to curb Kildare's strong midfield pairing of Kevin Feely and Aaron Masterson.
The Westmeath v Kildare match will be followed the meeting of All-Ireland champions Dublin and old rivals Meath in the other semi-final (4.30pm). It was confirmed last week that 18,000 fans can attend the double header, and both matches will be shown on the GAAGO streaming service.
Westmeath (Leinster SFC v Kildare):
1. Jason Daly (St Loman's Mullingar)
2. Jamie Gonoud (Tyrrellspass)
3. Kevin Maguire (Caulry, captain)
4. Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)
5. James Dolan (Garrycastle)
6. Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
7. Sam McCartan (St Loman's Mullingar)
8. Ray Connellan (Athlone)
9. Sam Duncan (Milltownpass)
10. Denis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks)
11. Ger Egan (Tyrrellspass)
12. David Lynch (St Malachy's)
13. Lorcan Dolan (Castledaly)
14. John Heslin (St Loman's Mullingar)
15. Ronan O'Toole (St Loman's Mullingar).
Kildare (Leinster SFC v Westmeath):
1. Mark Donnellan
2. Mark Dempsey
3. Mick O'Grady
4. Eoin Doyle
5. Kevin Flynn
6. David Hyland
7. Ryan Houlihan
8. Kevin Feely
9. Aaron Masterson
10. Conor Hartley
11. Fergal Conway
12. Neil Flynn
13. Darragh Kirwan
14. Ben McCormack
15. Jimmy Hyland.