Fay, 27, is recognised as perhaps the best full-back in the game but mid-January is a time for experiment and the big Trim man will try his luck in the middle third after shaking off a tiresome ankle strain.
All going to plan, he could just solve a problem that has been troubling Meath since the retirement of John McDermott, but Fay is realistic about his chances.
“I see myself as a full-back, no doubt about that,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be named at midfield and it was a surprise, but I’m open-minded and I’ll give it a go. I play midfield for the club but this is a completely different kettle of fish. If things go well, great, but basically I’m going in there to get 70 minutes under my belt against an Offaly side that will want to reach the O’Byrne Cup final.”
The inclusion of former Allstar Fay is one of two changes from the side that lashed Longford 0-13 to 0-6 last Sunday in Dromard.
Mark O’Reilly loses out in defence where Stephen McGowan drops from half-back to right corner-back. Paddy Reynolds comes in at number five.
Fay will surprisingly partner Nigel Crawford in midfield, so Shane McKeigue moves up front and John Cullinane loses out. Former Leinster club Player of the Year Niall Kelly starts in an unaccustomed full-forward role.
Sean Boylan has left a vacancy for a sub goalkeeper on the bench following the retirement of Cormac Sullivan and Trim’s Brendan Murphy, a former Wimbledon soccer player, should pick up the slack.
The Offaly team to play Meath shows three changes from the side that overcame both Wexford and DIT in the previous rounds. Colin McNamara replaces Kevin Meehan in goal and Mark Daly and Basil Malone, both of whom came on against DIT last Sunday, retain their places at the expense of Alan McNamee and John Reynolds. Positional switches see Niall McNamee move from left-half forward to the right corner, from where Thomas Deehan crosses to the left.
Carlow will be without full-back Brian Farrell for tomorrow’s visit to Mullingar. He broke two bones in his wrist during last Sunday’s victory over Dublin. Páidí Ó Sé has made two changes in the Westmeath team. Shane Colleary and Fergal Dardis who came on as subs against Kildare last Sunday, retain their places at the expense of James Conroy and Joe Fallon.
Kildare have announced the appointment of former Offaly dual All-Ireland medallist Johnny Dooley as coach to their senior hurling team.
Dooley, from the famed Sier Kieran club from Careen, was one of the mainstays of the Faithful County attack when they shocked Limerick to win McCarthy Cup honours in 1994.
Along with his brothers Joe and Billy he was also on board when the tricolours took the All-Ireland title at Kilkenny’s expense four years later.
Meath (SF v Offaly)
D Gallagher; S McGowan, A Moyles, D Curtis; P Reynolds, T O'Connor, S Kenny; N Crawford, D Fay; R Magee, A Kenny, S McKeigue; B Farrell, N Kelly, J Sheridan.
OFFALY (SF v Meath); C. McNamara; B. Mooney, C. Daly, S. Sullivan; M. Mitchell, G. Rafferty, K. Slattery; M. Daly, C. McManus; C. Farrell, P. Kellaghan, B. Malone; N. McNamee, N. Coughlan, T. Deehan.
CARLOW (SF v Westmeath): J. Quirke; P. Cashin, S. O’Brien, B. English; J. Kavanagh, K. Walker, AN Other; T. Walsh, AN Other; B. Carbery, J. Nevin, M. Carpenter; B. Kelly, P. Hickey, S. Rea.
WESTMEATH (SF v Carlow): A. Lennon; J. Davitt, D. Gavin F. Murray; T. Stuart-Trainor, D. Kilmartin, D. Heavin; R. O’Connell, D. O’Shaughnessy; F. Dardis, P. Conway, A. Mangan; F. Wilson, S. Colleary, D. Glennon.