Westmeath hurlers rue missed opportunities in defeat to Laois

Westmeath manager Michael Ryan was left “disappointed” as the Midlanders failed to secure promotion to Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League last Saturday against Laois at O’Connor Park, Tullamore.

Laois produced a defiant second-period display to eventually defeat Westmeath 0-23 to 0-16 following an interesting playoff encounter.

Inspired by Niall O’Brien, Westmeath led at the interval by 0-12 to 0-11, but Ryan felt his team squandered too many opportunities immediately after the restart: “We were disappointed with the way we played, particularly in the second half,” he reflected. “We have no complaints about the result, Laois were by far the better team. They are a physically strong team, you could see that they’ve four or five years of serious strength and conditioning work done.

“From our point of view we were in a good position at half time, I felt we might drive on, but I was very disappointed with our second-half performance.

“We thought that we should have been four or five points up at half time. We missed a really good goal chance just after half time. We needed to get that, we needed to go ahead at the start of the second half. We missed that chance; we missed three or four frees too. At this level you cannot afford to miss those chances.”

Though Laois had lost six matches on the spin in Division 1B, Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s side were able to cope adequately with Westmeath’s challenge. “Division 1B is higher than Division 2A there is no doubt about that, but the most disappointing thing for me is that we didn’t do ourselves justice,” Ryan admitted. “We are capable of playing a lot better than that. We struggled to get scores, we struggled to win possession up front. When we did, we didn’t use the ball nearly as well as we should have done.

“It is very disappointing because we had a great league campaign up until now. This was a real test, and to be honest we just weren’t up to it.”

Having claimed the Division 2A title, Westmeath hoped to deliver against Laois, but the focus now switches to next month’s Leinster Hurling Championship round robin series. “I’m disappointed for the players because they put a phenomenal effort into this,” Ryan said. “They worked really hard for the last four or five months, I’m disappointed for them. We have to get ready for the Championship now.

“It was our number one target. We thought we were in a very good place coming in, we just didn’t manage it. The standard is improving all the time in the lower divisions. We have Offaly; Westmeath’s record against Offaly over the years wouldn’t be great. Then after that we have to travel down to Kerry, it is a difficult road.

“We didn’t play to our full potential, some of that is down to how Laois played. We have some very good players in our dressing room, they haven’t become bad players overnight. It is something we have to assess to get ready to go again.”

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