GAELIC GAMES: Team News
Heavin blow for Westmeath WESTMEATH hopes of reproducing last summer's giant-killing escapades took a major blow with the revelation yesterday that Ger Heavin is out of Sunday's championship opener against Carlow.
The extent of the hamstring injury he suffered against Derry last Sunday week only became apparent when the great Westmeath veteran was omitted from their starting line-up.
While Heavin missed out all but their last two League games with a back problem, it seems unthinkable that the Maroon and Whites would start a major campaign without him, particularly given his huge influence last season.
"It's not too serious, he could take some part in Sunday's game if it has cleared up," said manager Luke Dempsey. "Ger is a great player to have, and it's our view that he will have a very, very important role in this year's championship."
With two of last year's half-forwards Fergal Wilson and Michael Ennis both on the injured list, the other big talking point is the inclusion of Shane Colleary and the siting of Kieran Ryan and Paul Conway.
Colleary only joined the panel after the League but is picked on the right wing while Conway, their regular centre-forward who was sited at centre-back late in the League, fills the No 6 spot with Ryan, who had been tipped for that defensive role on his return from the US, starting in the half-forwards.
One boost though is the noteworthy return of Dessie Dolan to full-forward in his first full competitive game since July 7 last year. Opponents Carlow, who pick today, are likely to be without scoring ace Brian Carbery and Morgan Drea is also on the doubtful list.
Meanwhile, Ulster secretary Danny Murphy has defended the unusual 6.45 throw-in time for Sunday's SF championship clash between Monaghan and Fermanagh at Clones.
"The decision was taken after a long consultative process which started last November and finished in March," said Murphy in reply to heavy criticism of the match time. "It was chosen to give both matches their own separate identity on the schedule because having two major matches within 17 miles of each other was particularly problematic."
Murphy denied that Ulster hoped that supporters at the big Cavan/Donegal game in Breffni Park might go from there straight to the game in Clones and thus boost the crowd size. "That was never an issue or anything to do with our decision," he insisted. "We looked at this from every angle, even at the possibility of moving it to May 26 but nothing was suitable."
Monaghan boss Jack McCarville had earlier called the late evening start "a pure disgrace" while Fermanagh manager Dom Corrigan described it as "strange".
Corrigan has a full squad to pick from and while Colm Bradley is the only one making his debut as a championship starter, the big boost is the return of Stephen Maguire from a long layoff.
Monaghan have included four new faces in their line-up for the crunch clash. Shane Duffy is preferred in goals to Glen Murphy, Anthony Rooney get his first championship outing at centre back, Eoin Lennon partners Jason Hughes in midfield while Rory Woods lines out on the '40.