A rivalry that began in Rochfortbridge in 1918 continues at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park this Sunday, when Offaly and Westmeath bid to complete the line-up for this year’s Leinster Senior Football Championship semi-finals.
Ninety-nine years ago, Westmeath defeated Offaly by 4-4 to 1-2 in that inaugural clash and 12 months later repeated the feat, albeit by a tighter margin of 0-3 to 0-2.
Now the Lake County have a chance to defeat their local rivals in the Leinster Championship two years in a row, for only the second time ever.
Last year’s pulsating quarter-final at TEG Cusack Park produced a 0-13 to 0-12 victory for Westmeath, and they went on to reach the provincial final.
With few changes to the respective panels since then, the likelihood is the gap between the teams will be similarly tight this time round.
Westmeath enter the game with a spring in their step, having cantered through Division 4 of the Allianz League and easily defeating Wexford in the final at Croke Park in April.
At the same time, Offaly have been buoyed by miraculously avoiding relegation from Division 3 – hard-earned victories over Sligo and Laois in the final two rounds making amends for a heavy defeat away to Armagh.
The Laois game at O’Connor Park was described as one of the most exciting matches in the venue in recent years and should encourage a big Faithful County following to turn up on Sunday.
Offaly are captained by corner back Sean Pender and are expected to welcome back star forward Niall McNamee, who didn’t feature in the league. With Eoin Carroll in top form at midfield and Peter Cunningham looking to attack from the half back line, Pat Flanagan will hope his side will make the most of home advantage.
Westmeath’s leaders have been enjoying a productive season under Tom Cribbin, among them team captain Ger Egan, St Loman’s duo Paul Sharry and John Heslin, and the dependable James Dolan and Kieran Martin.
With a return to Croke Park to face Dublin the prize on offer, expect a tense contest at the newly renamed Bord na Móna O’Connor Park – we could even be looking at our first drawn game in this year’s Leinster Senior Football Championship.
Last Five Championship Clashes
2016: Westmeath 0-13, Offaly 0-12 (Leinster quarter-final)
2008: Westmeath 2-11, Offaly 1-8 (Leinster quarter-final)
2006: Offaly 0-15, Westmeath 0-11 (Leinster first round)
2004: Westmeath 0-11, Offaly 0-10 (Leinster first round)
1997: Offaly 1-14, Westmeath 0-7 (Leinster quarter-final replay)