Cribbin calls time on spell as Westmeath boss

Departing Westmeath football manager, Tom Cribbin. Photo: Piaras O’Midheach/Sportsfile

Departing Westmeath football manager, Tom Cribbin. Photo: Piaras O’Midheach/Sportsfile

Tom Cribbin has stepped down as Westmeath football manager following three years in charge.

The popular Cribbin confirmed on Saturday that he would not be seeking re-appointment with the Midlanders.

Westmeath GAA’s statement said: “At a press briefing this afternoon (Saturday ) in the Mullingar Park Hotel, the Kildare native decided to call time on his three-year term with Westmeath senior footballers after consultation with County Board officials during the week.

“Tom stressed that he had brought the team as far as he could and that a new vision is required. County chairman Sean Sheridan thanks Tom for his dedication to Westmeath since 2014 and wished him well for the future.”

Despite suffering relegations in the Allianz Football League in his first two years in charge, Cribbin guided Westmeath to Leinster SFC finals in 2015 and 2016. Those provincial campaigns were hugely encouraging for Westmeath, who won the Allianz Football League Division Four title in April.

In the 2017 Leinster Championship, Westmeath overcame Offaly after a replay before losing heavily against Dublin at Croke Park.

In Round 2B of the All Ireland SFC Qualifiers Armagh finished strongly to beat Westmeath in a tight encounter at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar. That was a disappointing loss for Westmeath and Cribbin spoke to 2FM’s Game On programme on Monday evening.

“It was a tough decision but I’d known for a while that I would probably leave it after this year,” Cribbin stated. “I couldn’t see where we could make the inroads to really trouble Dublin.”

Cribbin feels that Kildare and Meath are making strides.

“I think Kildare are moving in the right direction to be up there and I think Meath are moving in the right direction. I probably felt overall that we weren’t going to really compete at that top level of Championship.

“Dublin are a good team, there are a lot of good players there, but I’m not sure there is enough there to be able to compete with Dublin at the moment and for the next few years. Unless you’re getting success at underage and bringing players through and doing conditioning work and everything, you’re going to struggle.”

Cribbin also stated the importance of producing talented young footballers in Westmeath.

“They need to develop a centre of excellence as well and an awful lot of emphasis has to be put on underage to try and get underage success because that’s where it all starts,” he said. “If you’re not competing and being successful at underage, then it’s very difficult to suddenly win at senior level.

“When they (Dublin ) bring young players through when they’re hitting the age of 20 or 21, they’ve already been doing conditioning for four or five years and they’re nearly ready to step straight into the senior. Most other counties don’t have that and that’s probably why Dublin won another Leinster title because they’re doing the work right at the early ages.”

In Leinster under Cribbin, Westmeath were only beaten by Dublin with victories registered against Louth, Wexford, Meath, Offaly (twice ), and Kildare during his term. That was a source of huge satisfaction for Westmeath, who were primed for most provincial battles with the two Leinster final appearances offering significant encouragement.

While there was disappointment with how Westmeath subsequently fared in the qualifiers, Cribbin remains a well-respected figure. An interesting few months await Westmeath now, who will be aware of the importance of next year’s return to Division Three in the Allianz Football League.

Former Galway hurling manager, Anthony Cunningham, is among those being considered to succeed Cribbin.

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