Westmeath suffered a third Allianz Football League relegation in a row when dropping to the bottom tier following a disappointing 0-13 to 0-11 defeat against Longford at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.
Having operated in Division One two years ago, Westmeath face Division Four fare in 2017 following this latest setback. It was a tough conclusion to this year’s competition for Westmeath, who had improved significantly when beating Limerick and Offaly. Longford, though, were rugged throughout a tight match, meaning Westmeath were left to reflect on costly early season losses to Kildare and Sligo.
“All we can do is try to lift ourselves for the Championship,” manager Tom Cribbin said afterwards. “There is no point feeling sorry for ourselves. That won’t get us anywhere. We just have to get them as ready as we can for the Championship. It was obvious both teams were going to be up for it in a big way. It was a local derby game, there was an awful lot to play for. There was a huge amount at stake for both counties.”
Westmeath’s failure to convert a couple of decent goalscoring opportunities was crucial according to Cribbin: “We had two great chances in the second half, but that’s life, they didn’t go in. It is hugely disappointing, the lads are gutted, the same as I am myself. The amount of effort and work that is being put in, the cost factor to the clubs and county board. It is huge to run an inter-county set-up, every time they got out they want to do their best for them.
“They are a good bunch of lads, they are training and working very hard. I don’t see why they wouldn’t perform in the Championship again. There is a 10 week break now, we will let them go to their clubs for a bit to let them freshen up.”
Cribbin highlighted the Sligo reversal as being a key factor in why Westmeath failed to stay up: “The Sligo game was the big game,” he said. “We weren’t unlucky; we didn’t play well and didn’t deserve anything that day. That was the big day that got away from us. Kildare in the first day we played well, but we gave away two goals. It was 11 scores each, we played well, we worked hard, it was the same against Tipperary.
“We were just unlucky against Tipperary. We held them to nine scores. We didn’t play well in Ennis either against Clare. We didn’t perform down there. The second game against Sligo had us under pressure, we didn’t perform there.”
Westmeath must now prepare for a Leinster Senior Football Championship clash with the winners of Offaly and Longford on June 12 at Cusack Park, Mullingar. “It will be another local derby,” Cribbin said. “It will be a home game for us. That will be a help, but it doesn’t mean anything in a local derby game. It is going to be very tight one way or the other. Hopefully in the 10 weeks we can get everyone 100 per cent right. They are bitterly disappointed, but time with their clubs will give them a bit of energy.”