Westmeath suffered their second straight defeat in division two of the national football league last Sunday, this time at the hands of neighbours Meath. Pat Flanagan’s inexperienced side were no match for the Royals who never had to come out of their comfort zone to collect both points on offer in Cusack Park.
The paltry Westmeath following at the game is indicative of the lack of confidence surrounding our senior footballers at present. Meath supporters well outnumbered the home support which tells its own story.
A 12-point defeat will do nothing to boost confidence on or off the field. Pat Flanagan will surely welcome the three week break from action which is now underway. It will give time for a number of injuries to the likes of Denis Glennon, Ger Egan, and Darragh Daly to clear up. He may even be able to call on some of the Garrycastle contingent though hopefully not until after March 17.
The visitors opened their account through Cian Ward and held a commanding 0-10 to 0-4 lead at the break. The winners picked up where they left off after the break and but for the heroics of Gary Connaughton between the sticks they would have bagged a number of goals. The dismissal of Michael Ennis for a second yellow card only added to Westmeath’s woes but had no bearing on the overall result.
While nobody can question the application and commitment of the majority of the current senior squad the reality is that we are out of our depth competing in division two. Withdrawals, injuries, and of course Garrycastle’s involvement in the club championship have significantly weakened Pat Flanagan’s hand.
Yet even when the Garrycastle contingent become available again I don’t believe it is going to make a massive difference to our fortunes this year. With the likes of Galway, Tyrone, Monaghan, Derry, and Kildare to come we could be in for further lessons before the league is over.
Physical size counts for a lot at inter-county level and it is an area we are lacking in big time. Meath made this glaringly obvious throughout the field but particularly in the all-important midfield sector.
Until we can find players with the physique of David O’Shaughnessy, Rory O’Connell, Martin Flanagan, or Paul Conway we are going to struggle.
Another glaring problem at present is our inability to score. Five points over the course of 70 minutes just isn’t good enough. In fact we only scored two points in the final 50 minutes of the game.
Problems like these will not be solved overnight but a lot of thought needs to be put into them if we are to be in any way competitive in the coming years.
Surprisingly Derry are propping up division two due to a worse score difference. However they would appear to be better equipped to address their problems. Relegation looks inevitable for The Lake County but if we can become more competitive and build towards championship, then there is still plenty to be gained from the remaining league games.