Westmeath unchanged for Ring Cup final

Westmeath manager Seamus Qualter has kept faith with the team that beat Carlow ten days ago and named an unchanged side for Sunday's Christy Ring Cup final against Kildare (Croke Park, throw-in 12.15pm).

Westmeath manager Seamus Qualter has kept faith with the team that beat Carlow ten days ago and named an unchanged side for Sunday's Christy Ring Cup final against Kildare (Croke Park, throw-in 12.15pm).

Westmeath beat Carlow 4-11 to 2-15 in their Ring Cup semi-final clash to keep their hopes of winning the competition for the second time in three years alive.

There are a number of positional switches for the trip to headquarters, with Derek McNicholas taking over at full-forward from Daniel Carty and John Shaw, who scored 2-2 against Carlow, will partner Pat Clarke at midfield. Ronan Whelan moves into the half-forwards.

Qualter's side are unbeaten in this year's Ring Cup, having drawn with Meath and beaten Down, Mayo and Kerry in the group stages as well as accounting for Carlow in the last-four.

Derek McNicholas has been Westmeath's top scorer to date with 6-9 in their five games. The Lough Lene Gaels clubman, who made his championship debut last summer, is certainly in a rich vein of form and ably assisted by the likes of John Shaw (2-13) and Andrew Mitchell (0-17).

Although preparations for the final have been good, Westmeath boss Qualter has been annoyed by the GAA's decision, in accommodating the All-Ireland quarter-final replay between Cork and Waterford, to put back the Ring Cup decider's throw-in time from 2pm to 12.15pm.

"It was written in stone in the fixtures that it would be at 2pm before an All-Ireland semi-final, with live television coverage, which is a huge thing for us," Qualter admitted.

"Now we're demoted off to 12.15 in the morning! It's the old story, they'll look after the big boys while we get kicked in the teeth again - despite all the work we're doing to promote hurling."

WESTMEATH (Christy Ring Cup v Kildare) - M Briody; N Gavin, P Greville, C Jordan; P Dowdall, D McCormack (capt), B Connaughton; J Shaw, P Clarke; R Whelan, B Murtagh, A Mitchell; B Kennedy, D McNicholas, D Carty.

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