By Micil Glennon
Dublin v Westmeath, Croke Park, 7pm
Reigning champions Dublin make their Leinster bow this evening looking for their eighth provincial title in 11 years.
Westmeath, conquerors of Carlow in Round One, stand in their way.
One bookmaker will only give you €1 in return for every €10 you bet on the Dubs, an indication of the massive test facing Pat Flanagan’s side.
Even given Dublin’s form (they are the league champions) and recent history in this competition, those odds make for stark reading. More so when you consider that Westmeath are on the back of promotion to Division 1 of the NFL, and that they have already recorded a Championship win.
While Dublin hold almost all the aces, Gavin certainly can’t be accused of not doing his homework on the opposition.
He told the Irish Times: "[Westmeath] have a strong spine, Gavin at full-back, Sharry at centre half-back, Duffy and Heslin at midfield and McCormack and the two guys up front, Glennon and Dolan.
“Throw in the scoring capabilities of Maguire and then Heslin from frees and general play; those names alone mean it's a very strong side.”
Offaly native Flanagan has named the same side that beat Carlow two weeks ago.
The fact that Westmeath have nothing to lose may be key to an unlikely shock.
Corner forward Ger Egan told the Westmeath Topic: “We need to get off to a good start and to stay with them for the first 20 minutes. We have to be up in their faces like Mayo were last year and Meath a few years ago (2010). If we get a sniff of a goal, we have to take it. It's all on the day. I believe we can win it.”
It would be fair to say that if the home side get into any sort of groove at all they can wrap the game up before the break.
But the midlanders can look back to last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final when Laois got to within three points for a glimmer of hope.
If a sudden malaise were to come over the Dublin side, Westmeath are equipped to punish them.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton (c), Darren Daly, Ross O’Carroll, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Jack McCaffrey, Michael Darragh Macauley, Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews, Bernard Brogan.
Westmeath: Gary Connaughton, Mark McCallon, Kieran Gavin (c), Kevin Maguire, Doron Harte, Paul Sharry, John Gaffey, David Duffy, John Heslin, Kieran Martin, Callum McCormack, James Dolan, Ger Egan, Denis Glennon, Dessie Dolan.
Live television coverage of Dublin v Westmeath from 18:40 on Saturday 1 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Dublin v Westmeath from 15:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Live television coverage of Derry v Down (Football) and Clare v Waterford (Hurling) from 13:30 on Sunday 2 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Clare v Waterford from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game from 21:30 on Sunday 2 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).