So industrious and impressive when winning the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A title last year, Westmeath suffered another early season defeat against Kildare on Sunday.
Beaten by Carlow in the first round manager Michael Ryan was bitterly disappointed with Westmeath’s latest 1-16 to 0-14 loss.
“I cannot explain it, Kildare beat us all over the pitch,” Ryan said in an interview with Midlands 103 Sport. “They were five point winners; they were deserving winners; they showed a better desire. I just cannot explain it. At the end of last year we felt we were in a very good place, but I suppose there were little signs all along for the last couple of weeks in the Walsh Cup and in challenge games we weren’t functioning, the team isn’t going in the direction it should be going. Fellas are off the pace, we got exactly what we deserved.”
Ryan praised Kildare’s work ethic and desire. “They won all the breaking ball, that is a sign of two things, desire and hunger,” he reflected. “They had that in abundance. We never matched them mentally, we never matched them physically. We never worked hard enough, we were off the pace, I can’t actually explain it.
“We had a very serious chat in the dressing room at half time. In fairness, some of the players spoke as well. We felt we were in a good place. We thought that things would turn around, but they didn’t, which was a reflection of how we played.”
Ryan is hoping that Westmeath can be more clinical converting opportunities: “That has been the story of our year so far, we have found goals hard to come by,” he said. “Last year we were getting two and three goals a game, but that hasn’t been happening this year. It was much deeper than that. It wasn’t just about chances we missed. Right through the pitch we just didn’t seem to have the aggression, hunger, fight, and desire. That seemed to be missing and I don’t know why.
“We have been absolutely flying in training. We look like two different teams. In training on Wednesday and Friday we were so sharp and aggressive. Everything seemed to be in place, but we just didn’t bring it with us.”
Ryan wants Westmeath to improve significantly for their remaining three league fixtures: “There are worrying signs for us right through the year in challenge matches and in the Walsh Cup, we never really played or functioned like we functioned last year,” he said. “That is something we have to look at. I know we can’t lie down. We have to look at it, learn from it, address it and fight. The disappointing thing is that performance is not a true reflection of the ability of the players.”