TWO Leinster rivals with everything to prove and it's a measure of Westmeath's current senior travails that Kildare could be such short-priced favourites after playing so abysmally last weekend.
For different reasons, last Sunday was another sobering day for Kieran McGeeney and Brendan Hackett. Both sides lost by seven points, although the scorelines could not have been more different: Kildare lost by 0-12 to 0-5 away to Armagh whereas Westmeath amassed a healthy 3-8 and still conspired by finish well off the pace as Laois helped themselves to a hurling-type tally of 0-24.
Westmeath are effectively doomed to relegation, leaving aside any mathematical niceties. Suffice to say, it has been a sobering reintroduction to inter-county management for Hackett but he deserves praise for simultaneously helping Westmeath reach their first Leinster U21 final in ten years.
To beat Kildare, Meath and Laois in the one campaign represents the finest (make that only) underage achievement since 2000 and goes some way to supporting the notion that Westmeath fans should accept that the glorious noughties are gone and it's time to build a new era. The short-term pain will continue and they could be on the receiving end of a Kildare backlash.The Lilywhites are stuck in mid-table and playing a game of catch-up. Inconsistency has returned with a vengeance - reflected in two dire displays coupled with two emphatic victories.
Geezer makes several changes, and he'll hope that the fit-again trio of Robert Kelly, Anthony Rainbow and Eamonn Callaghan can kickstart an attack that spluttered in Crossmaglen.
ODDS: Kildare 1/6, Draw 10/1, Westmeath 5/1