By Rory Houston
A first Championship meeting between Westmeath and Kerry is one of the highlights of the second round of football qualifiers and a unique experience for the Lake County.
It is quite rare to hear players taking about a dream Championship encounter but Westmeath’s young star John Heslin has spoken about what it means to be coming up against the Kingdom in the All-Ireland.
He told the Westmeath Examiner: "We're all looking forward to it. There's no pressure on us at all.
"It's a dream and a privilege for me to play in such a game, in front of a home crowd, and against Kerry."
The refreshing approach from Heslin counters a county sometimes divided by off-field politics.
The latest incident came this week when three Tyrrellspass players played for their club on Tuesday rather than attending training ahead of the qualifier, while the opposition’s inter-county players took part in inter-county training.
It is a ridiculous situation building up to such a special qualifier and a shame that there could not be a unity when needed most.
Kerry enter the qualifiers at an early stage and any talk of it being more beneficial than a straight provincial win is absurd.
The argument that Jack O’Connor’s side are a fading side will be proven one way or the other in the qualifier process.
Kerry’s showing in Pairc Ui Chaoimh was extremely disappointing and recovering through the next rounds will be a big ask.
The feeling from that game was they were outthought and unable to build enough momentum to set up a chance of toppling their rivals.
It is far from disaster for Kerry but they need to make a statement in these early qualifier games.
Westmeath may pay as they face a hurting Kingdom and the dream for Heslin may soon turn into a nightmare. Kerry should progress to round three with ease.