The Leinster SHC begins with two round-robin games this weekend and the pressure comes instantly, according to Westmeath manager Michael Ryan.
Westmeath have won five of their previous six round-robin outings under Ryan but open their 2017 championship campaign with a tricky trip to Portlaoise to face Laois on Sunday.
"Lose your first two games and you're out so the pressure is on straight away," the Lake County boss told The Irish Independent. "We were short some players early on and didn't start the league very well, but we got better as it went on and would hope to improve again for the championship.
"We'll need to if we are to get anything out of the game with Laois. They beat Offaly and ran Wexford to four points. The other games didn't go as well for them but they were still playing at a higher level than us."
The reality for round-robin quartet Westmeath, Laois, Meath and Kerry is that for two of them their season will end on May 14th. "It's not what any of us wants but that's the system so we have to get on with it. We all have three games so it's a fair test to see who makes the quarter-finals. Every point will be vital."