Westmeath hurlers face a difficult Walsh Cup Group 4 assignment when hosting Galway at Mullingar on Sunday afternoon.
Having suffered a demoralising defeat to an impressive NUIG outfit last Saturday, the Midlanders will be hoping to produce a much improved display. With several key players unavailable due to injury and college commitments, Michael Ryan’s options have been restricted and NUIG took maximum advantage.
“We are disappointed because we were well beaten, there is no doubt about that,” Ryan admitted. “We were disappointed with the performance, first and foremost that should be said. This team played reasonably well against an inferior college side the previous week. Without making excuses we have 12 guys missing in total. Westmeath cannot afford that, we only had five guys who started in the championship last year.
“NUIG are very strong. They have a few of the Galway team and guys from Clare and Tipperary, they are a very formidable side. They are probably at their peak too because the Fitzgibbon Cup is on in a couple of weeks. Having said that we are disappointed with the performance. There is a long road ahead because we have a game against Galway next week and we probably won’t have any of the players back.”
Ryan wants Westmeath to be ready for the February 15 Allianz League Division 2A opener away to London at Ruislip: “All our focus is on February 15 for the league game against London, that is our big game,” he said. “This did show we have an awful lot of work to do between now and then, but we will have a much stronger team on display.It is very important to have guys playing at a high level, but we need to have our best XV playing together on a regular basis.
“We won’t have much of a chance to do that because of the Fitzgibbon Cup games. There is no point making excuses we just have to work hard. Some of the things that happened we have to change. In the Walsh Cup we will get a good look at every member of the panel - we will know what our real strength is.”
Westmeath will be striving to launch a serious promotion bid according to Ryan: “The league is absolutely vital for us, we need to get up into Division 1B,” he said. “I wouldn’t be looking past that. Basically we have to win every game in the league; to do that we have to prepare properly. Hopefully we will have a lot of our injured players back; we have to get ready for the league to try to get out of the division.”