Westmeath suffered another disappointing Allianz Football League Division Three defeat when losing to Sligo by 1-11 to 1-10 at Markievicz Park last Sunday.
Teenager Kyle Cawley struck an opportunistic goal for Sligo, who claimed a vital victory against the Midlanders. Sligo started smartly, edging seven points clear before Westmeath rallied and hit 1-3 without reply, including a Ger Egan goal.
“We were in trouble in a lot of different areas,” Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin reflected as they trailed 0-8 to 1-4 at the interval. “We got it back to one point, but we weren’t playing well either. We had a five-minute spell where we got the scores, but I thought before that we missed three or four great chances. Instead of taking the easy point in the conditions we tried to work it in for a goal. I just thought the decision-making was poor.”
After the restart Westmeath were rocked when Cawley pounced for a smashing goal. “It was poor the whole way as we let them carry the ball,” Cribbin commented about the concession of the goal. “Some of the boys probably thought they had all the tough work done in the first half when they got it back to point. With the strong breeze the lads seemed to think that it would take care of itself. They just wanted it more. They were hungrier, they worked harder, and they supported each other.”
Cribbin accepted that Sligo were primed for a battle in the north west. “They were winning the dirty ball, they were turning over in the tackle. We just weren’t doing it. You cannot take it away from them. They needed to deliver, we needed to deliver, they were the ones that did. Every team is going to be taking points off each other, we only have ourselves to blame for that. All we can do is to try to improve to get to the next stage. The players are bitterly disappointed.”
Sligo boss Niall Carew was thrilled with the display of promising attacker Cawley, who is still a second level student at Summerhill College. “When you lose Pat Hughes on the Friday before the Sunday and you’re already down the likes of Adrian Marren, David Kelly, and these lads you have to dig deep into your panel. It is a trust thing that comes into it then. Kyle Cawley, we are trying to mind him because he is very busy with the school, he still isn’t 19 yet.
“The biggest thing for us is to mind him, we need to use him sparingly. He impressed so much in training that we had no choice but to use him. He is good enough and he added a bit of a spark inside. I wasn’t disappointed to only be one up at half-time because I knew Westmeath were still there for the taking. You know when you’re in a game and you still have a live chance. It was probably a false dawn for them, but I knew there was a goal in us. We were a little bit wide open at the back at times.”
Buoyed by this triumph, Carew acknowledges that Division Three is particularly interesting this year. “It is all very tight; we have Offaly in a few weeks, it will be a massive game in Tullamore,” he says. “When you bring in Kyle Cawley and you have Mark Brehehy things are different then. The only people who probably believed that we would win this were the lads inside the dressing room.
“Kyle Cawley brought a bit of a clinical edge, he won two or three frees, he set up a few scores and got a goal. Meanwhile Michael Ryan’s Westmeath hurlers face a tough Allianz League Division 2A assignment away to London at Ruislip on Sunday. Ryan is keen to steer Westmeath to promotion so a positive result needs to be secured against the Exiles, who can be tricky opponents at the Emerald GAA Grounds.