Westmeath v Carlow, Cusack Park, Sunday, 3.30pm
Westmeath and Carlow get the ball rolling in the Leinster Championship in Mullingar on Sunday with Dublin waiting for the winners in a quarter-final.
Daunting as that may seem, given Dublin’s impressive showings so far, Westmeath are in a rich vein of form themselves, securing promotion from Division 2 in a league run that saw wins over Louth, Longford, Laois, Wexford and Armagh, and a draw with Galway – not a bad spring at all.
Ahead of the clash, Westmeath defender Paul Sharry told the Westmeath Topic: “I know [Carlow] had a poor league, but the Championship is a completely different ball game.
"The tempo goes up by another 25 or 30 per cent. Carlow are well capable of lifting it for the Championship as we saw in the last two years when they beat Louth and brought Meath to a replay.”
Pat Flanagan’s side are boosted by the return of Dessie Dolan, who came on as a sub in the Division 2 final; he will line out in the full-forward line with Ger Egan and Denis Glennon.
The Barrowsiders, on the other hand, finished second from bottom of Division 4, with only wins over Tipperary and London to their name.
Despite their massive underdog status, former Sydney Swan Brendan Murphy has a sense of optimism going into the game.
"If we click, we can match them,” said the Ireland international.
"That's what we think, anyway. They're strong all over the field and their confidence will be high after getting promoted to Division 1.
"It's a big ask for us to go up to Mullingar and win - we're used to being written off - but these are the games you want to play.”
The qualifiers are on the cards for both sides but they would love to get a run out in Croke Park before that happens.
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.
Carlow: Trevor O'Reilly, Conor Lawler, Shane Mernagh, Barry John Molloy, Kieran Nolan, Shane Redmond, Benny Kavanagh, Darragh Foley, John Murphy, Brian Murphy, Brendan Murphy, Eoghan Ruth, Sean Gannon, Paul Reid, Derek Hayden.
Live television coverage of Cavan v Armagh and Galway v Mayo on The Sunday Game Live from 13:15 on Sunday 19 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).
Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Galway v Mayo 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 19 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).