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The Price is right as Westmeath hurlers prepare for trip to Tralee

Friday, 22nd February, 2013 9:00am

Story by Tom Kelly
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The Price is right as Westmeath hurlers prepare for trip to Tralee

Eoin Price ... in action for the Westmeath hurlers against DIT earlier this season. Westmeath face Kerry in the Allianz HL in Tralee this Sunday.

The Price is right as Westmeath hurlers prepare for trip to Tralee

Eoin Price ... in action for the Westmeath hurlers against DIT earlier this season. Westmeath face Kerry in the Allianz HL in Tralee this Sunday.

The 2013 Allianz Hurling Leagues begin this weekend, with Westmeath making the long trip to Tralee to take on Kerry in their opening Division 2A match.

Last year's league final defeat at the hands of Carlow in Kilkenny's Nowlan Park still grates on the memory of Westmeath's hurling fraternity, and promotion will surely be on the minds of Brian Hanley's charges, as the ideal fillip ahead of the Leinster championship.

But captain Eoin Price says that the Lake County is taking one game at a time, and getting off to a good start against the Kingdom is of supreme importance.

"Last year was tough to take alright," Eoin said. "I'd be a firm believer that you have to be playing the top teams to improve, and getting to 1B might mean we'd be a bit sharper going into the championship.

"But really, we're not looking past our first game. Everything's geared towards Kerry."

The Maroons narrowly won their league meeting with Kerry in Cusack Park last year, and Price reckons that they're among the teams to beat in Division 2A.

The Munster outfit have a decent mix of youth and experience on their books, and with last year's All-Ireland minor 'B' title under their belts, new blood is coming through thick and fast.

"We know an awful lot about each other," the Clonkill skipper continued. "There's a great rivalry between us since the Christy Ring Cup final a couple of years ago, when Andy Dermody won it for us with that point.

"I know everyone automatically assumes that Kerry is purely about football. But these lads are passionate about their hurling.

"They're one of the teams to beat. We'll get it very hard to come out of Kerry with a win. It'll be a dogfight - just a couple of points in it, and we'll need all the travelling support we can get.

"Then you have Laois coming down the tracks as well, who have just come back down from 1B. They're physically very strong, and ran Wexford close in the relegation game last year.

"But there's six teams in the league, and for all of them, it's all on the day. If you don't perform, you don't win."

A couple of high profile names who missed the Walsh Cup - mainstays like the talismanic Brendan Murtagh and Eoin's brother, Adam - have made themselves available for the league. But Price admits that the retirement of veterans like Darren McCormack and Andrew Mitchell leaves a huge void in terms of experience.

"But the other side of the coin is that we have younger lads like Aonghus Clarke and Robbie Greville coming through, who've been winning for years and don't know anything about losing," Eoin concluded, striking a positive note.

The throw-in for Sunday's game at Austin Stack Park is 1pm.

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