SUNDAY 30 JUNE

Carlow and Westmeath meet at Croke Park today with a place in next year's Leinster SHC up for grabs.

Both sides are guaranteed a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final regardless of the result, the winners will play Limerick and the losers Wexford next weekend, but they'll both want to secure silverware and the higher level of competition in 2019 that would result.

The game is a curtain-raiser for the Leinster final between Galway and Kilkenny at 4pm.

THROW-IN
Croke Park, 1.45pm

ONLINE
Live scores and updates on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News Now App from 2pm.

RADIO
Score updates on Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1

TV
Highlights on The Sunday Game from 9.30pm on RTÉ2. 

Form guide

These two teams are very familiar with each other - it will be their fourth competitive meeting this season.

Westmeath were 0-19 to 0-15 victors in the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A group stages but Carlow turned that round in the final to win 2-19 to 2-12 and secure promotion to 1B.

Carlow also got the better of the Lake men in the final round-robin stage of the Joe McDonagh (James Doyle scoring a hat-trick in a 3-21 to 1-21 win) but it should be noted that Westmeath had already guaranteed their place in the final having won their four games before that.

That was Westmeath's only defeat of the group stage after wins over Laois, Meath, Kerry and Antrim. Carlow beat everyone except Antrim, who retained their Joe McDonagh status against Kildare on Saturday.

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Source: Westmeath GAA Media

Managers' view

Michael Ryan (Westmeath)

"It's a very exciting time for both teams. To play the game in Croke Park is a big step up.

"There's a huge prize at stake. (But) we have to forget about the occasion and treat it as an ordinary game.

"Preparations have been good but you can prepare all you like. When that ball is thrown in you've got to perform.

"Carlow are a really good side with an excellent manager. They've beaten us twice already this year and it's a big test for us.

Colm Bonnar (Carlow) (Speaking to the Carlow Nationalist)

"Normally for the GAA it is a token gesture. All the teams play in the round robin and the team, who is normally Laois or Westmeath, are given a crack at a senior team," Bonnar.

"That is all they were given before. This year they are saying if you win the Joe McDonagh Cup you are going to replace a so-called traditional county.

"Win this and you are up and considered to be in the top ten in the country. It's a huge, huge prize for the Carlow and Westmeath lads. There is so much more.

"It is a final, it is Croke Park and you want to win it. The consequences for the winner is massive. Mind-blowing. Being up there with the big boys and that is what they are playing for."

Team news

Westmeath make four changes to the side that lost to Carlow the last day out. Paddy Carroll, Allan Devine, Niall Mitchell and Ciaran Doyle come in for Shane McGovern, Aaron Craig, Shane Clavin and Darragh Clinton.

Liam Varley overcomes a rib injury to start.

For Carlow, David Byrne replaces Richard Kelly in the half-back line. James Doyle, who bagged 3-01 the last time these two met, again lines up in attack alongside Denis Murphy and Chris Nolan.

Those three were responsible for 3-14 of their side's 3-21 tally when they defeated Westmeath three weeks ago.

Westmeath: Paddy Carroll; Shane Carroll, Tommy Doyle (captain), Liam Varley; Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville, Derek McNicholas; Eoin Price, John Gilligan; Joey Boyle, Robbie Greville, Allan Devine; Niall O'Brien, Niall Mitchell, Ciaran Doyle

Carlow: Brian Tracey; Alan Corcoran, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Kevin McDonald, Richard Coady, David English; Jack Kavanagh, Diarmuid Byrne; John M Nolan, Paul Coady, Edward Byrne; James Doyle, Denis Murphy, Chris Nolan

Michael Duignan's verdict

"Carlow to me, have been the most impressive team throughout the group stages. They topped the group, they beat Westmeath back on 9 June by six points and Denis Murphy, James Doyle are leading their attack.

"I fancy them to win it, though Westmeath I think have one of the best full-backs in the game in Tommy Doyle. They've Niall O'Brien and Alan Devine in great scoring form up front so I don't think there'll be a lot in it but I think Carlow will have three or four points to spare in the end."

Follow the Joe McDonagh Cup via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the  News Now  App,  listen to updates on  RTÉ  Radio  1’s Sunday Sport and see highlights on The Sunday Game at 9.30pm on RTÉ2.