Meath manager Nick Weir. Photo: Michael O’Rourke / www.quirke.ie

One change for Meath ahead of Westmeath visit

Game free to air on Meath GAA TV's YouTube channel tomorrow from 1pm and live update on our twitter page @meathsports

Meath manager Nick Weir has made one change from the side that lost out narrowly to Carlow two weeks ago with Kiltale's Cathal McCabe coming in for Clann na nGael's Eamonn O Donnchadha for tomorrow's Joe McDonagh Cup clash with Westmeath in Pairc Tailteann, 1pm.

Both sides are still seeking their first win of the campaign and Westmeath will wear the favourites tag having plied their trade in Div 1 of the NHL, whereas Meath operated out of Div 2A.

However if results in this year's Joe McDonagh Cup game are to be used as a gauge then Weir will fancy his chances of picking up a victory against his native county.

In the opening round Westmeath were beaten by 19 points by Antrim. A week later Antrim were fortunate to snatch a draw against Carlow and the week after that Meath only lost out by the minimum to Carlow. Kerry are the only side to have faced both Meath and Westmeath so far and they beat the Royals by 10 points and the Lake County side by 11 - so make up your own mind.

Our reporter Jimmy Geoghegan believes Westmeath will be too strong, read his preview below.

TEAM NEWS

Meath (v Westmeath) - Mark McCormack; Michael Burke, Shane Brennan, Sean Geraghty; Shane Whitty, Darragh Kelly, Keith Keoghan; Padraic O’Hanrahan, Paddy Conneely; Alan Douglas, Stephen Morris, Jack Regan; Adam Gannon, Cathal McCabe, Jack Walsh.

Subs - Charlie Ennis, Ger Murphy, Ben McGowan, Daithi McGowan, Eamonn O Donnchadha, Patrick Potterton, Mark Molloy, Jack McGowan, James Kelly, Nicky Potterton, Damien Healy.

MATCH PREVIEW by Jimmy Geoghegan

In a scenario that's something similar to Brian Cody managing a hurling team with the aim of taking down Kilkenny in a game, Nick Weir will send Meath out to tackle his native Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday, 1.30pm.

A proud Westmeath man Weir represented his native county many times on the hurling fields of Ireland during the 1990s, but for once he will be putting his allegiance to one side as he seeks to secure a first victory for the Royal County in this year's competition.

"It will be strange, very strange, but my allegiance is with Meath, my job is to get a win for the team I manage," said Weir who was also part of the Westmeath management team when the county won the Christy Ring Cup in 2010.

Both sides go into Saturday's game with the same, unwanted record - two games played, two defeats but Westmeath will still be considered strong favourites to claim victory this time around - and they should do just that.

Weir himself says his team is facing "a mammoth task" pointing out that earlier this year Westmeath secured their status in the NHL Div 1, putting in spirited performances against top quality, elite teams such Cork, Tipperary, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

They did lose all their Group A games, but a play-off victory over Div 1 Group B bottom side Carlow eventully secured the Lake County's status. Meath, meanwhile, also secured their status, but in Div 2A with the gulf in divisions indicating a considerable gap in class.

Yet, in this year's Joe McDonagh Cup Westmeath faltered and spluttered with a hefty loss to Antrim (1-15 to 4-25) followed by a loss to Kerry (0-14 to 2-19).

Both those setbacks indicate Westmeath have plenty of problems, but Weir counters that by pointing out they still have some top class players including Tommy Doyle (who many consider unlucky not to have won an All-Star a few years ago), Kieran Doyle, Derek McNicholas, Robbie Greville and Aonghus Clarke.

Weir says he's somewhat bemused by Westmeath's form although he knows that the experience of playing against the country's top sides in the league will be invaluable to them.

However, he concedes, the continued absence of the richly-talented Killian Doyle is a huge blow to them.

A tenacious forward, Weir had some good and bad times playing for Westmeath but you suspect there were none better than one day in March 1996 when he scored two goals against Dublin that secured the team's NHL Div 2 status. The headline in the following day's Irish Independent said it all: 'Westmeath stay afloat as Dublin are sunk by Weir magic.' The Raharney man may have to sprinkle a hefty amount of magic dust around Pairc Tailteann on Saturday if the home side are to overcome the visitors.

Meath's defeats to Kerry and Carlow can have done little for the team's morale.

Yet in that narrow loss to Carlow particularly Weir saw grounds for optimism.

"Our discipline in terms of conceding frees was a lot better compared to the Kerry match and the fact that we kept within touching distance of Carlow, never dropped the heads, was very encouraging, a good sign," he suggested.

"I've said it to the lads that they just have to keep believing in what they are doing.

"If they have belief in themselves they can bring this whole project forward.

"All the players have shown great commitment and determination in training.

"If they can keep working on the basics, the first touch, the ball to hand, if they can do those things automatically, that's when you know you are making progress," he concluded.

Despite signs of progress Meath's chances of victory on Saturday look slim in this local derby that usually produces plenty of fireworks.

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