Westmeath make changes to backroom team as new league format looms
The management team which will oversee the Westmeath senior footballers for the 2021 season will be much changed from 2020.
Although Jack Cooney remains as manager, Paschal Kellaghan, Brian Flanagan and Declan Gorman have departed the set-up.
Former Rhode and Offaly football star Kellaghan has been appointed as manager of Meath senior football club Summerhill. Flanagan has been appointed as U-20 manager with his native Kildare and he will be concentrating on this role.
Ken Robinson joins the Westmeath management team, having been part of the Dublin ladies set-up which recently won their fourth All-Ireland senior title in a row under Mick Bohan. Robinson has considerable experience in coaching and was involved with the Dublin hurlers, along with Ballymun Kickhams and Dublin City University.
In addition, former Garrycastle and Westmeath goalkeeper Cathal Mullin has rejoined the Westmeath set-up. An All-Ireland U-21 medal winner with Westmeath in 1999, Mullin won several senior county titles with Garrycastle and a Leinster club medal in 2011.
The GAA announced earlier this week that collective inter-county training will not be permitted until at least the end of January.
In the 2021 Allianz Football League, the divisions will be split into north and south. This will reduce the number of games and cut down on long journeys as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make a huge impact on sport.
Westmeath will compete in Division 2 North alongside 2020 All-Ireland finalists Mayo, neighbours Meath and Down. Division 2 North looks far stronger on paper than its South counterpart, which contains Laois, Kildare, Cork and Clare.
The top teams in each divisional group will progress to league semi-finals, followed by a league final. The bottom two teams in each group will go into relegation semi-finals, with both losers relegated.
The league stakes will once again be high for Westmeath as, if they don’t manage to retain their place in Division 2, they will won’t be eligible to take part in the All-Ireland qualifiers (which will return in 2021) unless they reach the Leinster final.
Teams who are in Division 3 and 4 after the promotion/relegation process will go into the second tier championship, the Tailteann Cup, unless they reach their provincial final.
However, an exception is being made for reigning provincial champions. So if Cavan and Tipperary (Ulster and Munster champions respectively) fail to secure promotion from Division 3, they will still be allowed to compete in the All-Ireland qualifiers even if they don’t reach their provincial final.
Meanwhile, Roscommon will compete in Division 1 South alongside All-Ireland champions Dublin, league champions Kerry and Connacht rivals Galway.
The 2021 Allianz Football League is slated to start on the weekend of February 27/28, with the finals weekend on April 3/4. However, the later start to collective training and the evolving Covid-19 situation could see the start pushed back.
There will be no provincial ‘pre-season’ competitions in 2021 which means there will be O’Byrne Cup in Leinster and no FBD League in Connacht.
The Allianz Hurling League will be run on the same basis as a normal year, except there will be no quarter-finals or semi-finals. The Division 1 league final will pit the Division 1A winners against the Division 1B winners.
New York will not be taking part in the Connacht SFC - as this is set to start in April, the GAA believes it is too difficult to plan for their participation. A decision on New York’s possible involvement in the Tailteann Cup will be made later subject to restrictions.
Allianz Football League: 2021 Divisions
Division 1 South
Kerry, Dublin, Roscommon, Galway.
Division 1 North
Donegal, Tyrone, Monaghan, Armagh.
Division 2 South
Cork, Clare, Laois, Kildare.
Division 2 North
Westmeath, Mayo, Meath, Down.
Division 3 South
Offaly, Tipperary, Limerick, Wicklow.
Division 3 North
Derry, Cavan, Longford, Fermanagh.
Division 4 South
Wexford, Carlow, Waterford, London*.
Division 4 North
Leitrim, Louth, Antrim, Sligo.
*There is provision made to run the league with or without London depending on restrictions in place at the time.