Westmeath 0-15 Clare 1-13
Beneath clear blue skies in Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Saturday evening, the dark cloud of a senior football championship loss hovered, as Westmeath exited the All-Ireland qualifier series, despite a valiantly committed team display in the throes of a first half personnel crisis.
Shorn of the influential John Heslin and Ronan O'Toole (black cards ) and scoring talisman, Ger Egan (injury ), all of whom departed the playing scene in the first quarter of this close encounter, Westmeath rallied as a unit and were it not for a number of wides, may have forced the contest into extra time.
Come the shrill of the final whistle, the result favoured the Munster visitors and with it the conclusion of the Lake County's competitive season, one which has ensured progress under new management, the annexing of two silverware pieces just rewards for the players dedicated and tenacious playing commitment since their return to training eight months ago.
Speaking following the minimum loss, Maryland clubman and team captain, Kieran Martin, who enjoyed a fine seventy minutes, acknowledged that the first half personnel decisions were key to the game's outcome, but praised his teammates for their positive performance response.
"To lose key personnel such as John, Ger and Ronan was massive in terms of the contest, but the team rallied and we put in a huge performance over the duration. In the dressing room at half time we were quietly confident of achieving a result but it was not to be. To lose by the minimum is extremely disappointing, but the result does not reflect upon the manner of our display," Kieran remarked.
Noting that the loss of key personnel would effect most county teams, Kieran proudly spoke of the contribution of those introduced to replace the trio.
"Tommy McDaniels and Sam Duncan played their parts when introduced, as well as the younger members of the panel when they saw action in the second half. This is the future of the team and it was great that they were able to step into such a playing environment," Kieran added.
Despite that immediate sense of loss that prevailed post final whistle, when thoughts were gathered Jack Cooney expressed pride in his charges.
"Performing to our capabilities is a sign of the progress we have made under Jack and the management team who have provided a strong foundation upon which our season has been built," Kieran emphasised.
Looking forward to next season, Westmeath will face Clare once again in their new league division surrounds.
"The aim is to push on next year and the management have put a focus upon us to do so," Kieran concluded.
The county squad members now return to club action when the senuior, intermediate and junior championships commence on Saturday week.