Despite producing a battling display, Westmeath still suffered a 4-18 to 0-18 Bord na Mona Walsh Cup loss to Kilkenny at Cusack Park last weekend.
Brian Cody’s Kilkenny hit three goals in the first 14 minutes to take control, but Westmeath manager Michael Ryan was encouraged by some aspects last Sunday afternoon.
“It was a decent enough performance, but we aren’t going to pat ourselves on the back following an honorable defeat, we aren’t happy about that, but we played a lot of good hurling,” Ryan admitted in an interview with Midlands Sport 103.
“I’m a bit disappointed with the goals, they are the concentration levels that we have to up, but overall we played some good hurling, particularly in the second half. We tried to use the ball well, we were short a couple of key guys, there is no doubt about that. Overall, I couldn’t fault the effort. Everybody worked hard. There is real potential in this team.”
Ryan was satisfied with how Westmeath hurled in the second period. “We put a lot of emphasis at half time on marking your own player; we felt that was a problem in the first half,” he said. “Fellas were running around chasing after the ball. Every man is responsible for his own man, that is a basic principle.
“I thought in the second half we had a much better shape and we worked a lot harder, we used the ball better, we came out to perform and we threw off the shackles because playing teams like Kilkenny you cannot roll over and die. Every time they got the ball they were looking for a goal. They have a lot of good hurlers with a lot of All-Ireland medals inside in that camp. It was our first time in the last 12 months playing against a team of this calibre.”
Westmeath are busy preparing for their Allianz Hurling League Division 2A opener against Carlow. “It does take a little while to wake up,” Ryan said. “When we play Carlow, we can’t afford that waking-up time. It took us a little while to get switched on to it and get our concentration levels up to where they needed to be, but I thought as the game went on we got a handle on it and we were much better in the second half. But I think a lot of it was do with the surface.
“Conditions were really good here. It was like summer hurling. I mean this is a magnificent pitch and a magnificent stadium, and overall I’m happy, but under no illusions, there is a lot of work to be done.”