Retaining Allianz Football League Division Three status will be the aim for Westmeath next Sunday when facing a difficult clash at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park against Longford.
Recent victories over Limerick and Offaly ensure Westmeath have a chance to avoid the drop, but manager Cribbin admits a string of important ties are scheduled for this weekend. Sligo host Tipperary at Markievicz Park, while Limerick, who are already consigned to Division Four fare in 2017, entertain Offaly at Newcastlewest.
Longford currently sit in third place in the standings, but are only one point ahead of Westmeath in seventh. Offaly, Sligo, and Tipperary are also bothered by relegation worries.
“Both teams will want to win it,” Cribbin said about the vital tussle with Longford. “Tipp are playing Sligo, both are on six points, Longford are on six points, Offaly are on six points. All games are absolutely critical.”
Substitute Paul Greville’s first-half goal proved to be the decisive blow in Sunday’s gritty 1-9 to 0-9 triumph against Offaly at Cusack Park, Mullingar. “We had two teams who are very similar ability wise,” Cribbin reflected. “With it being a local derby it was always going to be a good, competitive game. Pat (Flanagan ) would know the lads very well, myself and Emmett (McDonnell ) would know the Offaly lads reasonably well. So you’d have a lot of tactics and things coming into play there too.
“I thought both teams handled the conditions well. I suppose the goal was the difference at the end of the day. Considering Paul is only back since March, he had a bad fracture in his knee and was out for 12 weeks, he had an incredible game.”
Cribbin was happy with how Westmeath responded to John Heslin’s black card enforced departure with replacement Greville making a significant impact. “I think the rule is there for everyone,” Cribbin commented. “John was a bit frustrated. He probably should have got a free, he didn’t, that’s life. It asked a question of the team even more. Whereas in the past a team might have blamed a player if they didn’t win, they stood up themselves to show it is a team unit and not about any one individual.
“The goal was a big one. We had a serious goal chance before that when Kieran Martin carried the ball straight through. He was in one and one. Nine times out of 10 Kieran would put it away, but unfortunately it came off the crossbar.”
Cribbin was encouraged by the manner in which Westmeath defended throughout a hard-fought match: “I thought all the backs were brilliant,” he said. “I thought the work rate as a unit was very, very good. Our tackling was very disciplined. We didn’t give away many frees. You’d have to be happy with how every one of them played.
“A local derby takes on a life of its own. There was an awful lot riding on the game for both teams. If Offaly won they were looking at promotion, if we lost we were almost definitely relegated. Now we still have a chance to stay in Division Three.”
John Connellan might be available for the Longford fixture, while Cribbin highlighted excellent late scores from Shane Dempsey and James Dolan. “I thought Shane could have got a few handy frees, but fair play to him he got a great point. It probably inspired the team and James got one shortly after it. They were real lifting scores for the team.”