Tubberclair goalkeeper Kevin Fagan will make his senior championship debut for Westmeath in the All-Ireland football qualifier clash against Armagh tomorrow evening (Saturday) at TEG Cusack Park, 7pm.
Fagan replaces Stephen Gallagher in one of two changes in personnel from the Leinster quarter-final defeat to Laois. Rosemount's Boidu Sayeh also comes into the team in place of the injured Alan Stone.
Team captain John Heslin is again absent from the starting line-up. He came on as a substitute against Laois, though clearly hampered by the hip flexor injury that prevented him from starting.
In total, there are just six players named in the Westmeath starting team that started last year's qualifier against the same opponents. The six are Mark McCallon, Sam Duncan, Jamie Gonoud, John Egan, Kieran Martin and Ger Egan.
Similar to last year, Westmeath are on a mission of atonement as they face into a qualifier clash with Armagh. Last year, Westmeath came into the Armagh game on the back of a 31-point hammering from Dublin. On a day when Westmeath squandered several scoring chances, a late surge from Armagh sealed a 1-12 to 1-7 victory, with a goal from substitute Ethan Rafferty proving crucial. In what proved Tom Cribbin's last game in charge of Westmeath, it was a fractious encounter with plenty of tension on the pitch and among supporters.
On this occasion, Westmeath are trying to bounce back from a 4-13 to 1-12 defeat to Laois. Missing the services of several members of last year's team for various reasons, Colin Kelly's side look to be facing a very tall order - but Lake County fans will be hoping for a spirited display on home turf, whatever the result.
One obvious area for Westmeath to improve on is in defence, with Laois manager John Sugrue even admitting he was surprised when the space afforded to his team in the second half of last month's game. Laois attacker Paul Kingston took full advantage by plundering a hat-trick of goals and it's worth noting that Westmeath also conceded four goals in the O'Byrne Cup final defeat to Meath shortly before the championship.
For their part, Armagh are also looking to atone for a very disappointing defeat, having lost to Fermanagh 0-12 to 0-7 in their Ulster quarter-final. It was a setback that saw Kieran McGeeney's charges receive plenty of criticism.
Armagh won this year's Division 3 league game between the counties 2-17 to 1-11 and they are firm favourites to inflict another defeat on Westmeath. Some bookmakers are quoting Westmeath as 5/2 outsiders, with Armagh at 4/9.
At the time of writing, the Armagh team had yet to be named. Midfielder Niall Grimley is suspended for Armagh, having been sent off on a straight red card against Fermanagh, while Ben Crealey is set to miss out due to a hamstring injury.
In the event of a draw in any of the qualifiers, extra-time will be played and all the matches must finish on the day - with a free-taking shoot-out to be held if extra-time fails to separate the sides.
Westmeath team v Armagh
(All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 1, Saturday June 9, TEG Cusack Park, 7pm)
1. Kevin Fagan
2. Mark McCallon
3. Sam Duncan
4. Jamie Gonoud
5. John Egan
6. Noel Mulligan
7. Boidu Sayeh
8. Denis Corroon
9. Daragh Daly
10. Kieran Martin
11. Ronan O'Toole
12. Ger Egan
13. Luke Loughlin
14. John Connellan
15. Callum McCormack