Deservedly absorbing the magnitude of Westmeath’s historic victory in Croke Park on Saturday, team manager, Jack Cooney, spoke to the Athlone Advertiser on Monday morning, as he recalled the weekend celebrations upon the county’s Tailteann Cup success.
The Coralstown/Kinnegad clubman has been at the managerial helm since 2018 and in the four years since, has moulded a team capable of such silverware achievement, developing and enhancing a bond between management and players which deservedly realised fruition at GAA HQ.
“The images from our homecoming to Mullingar will live long in the memory, I could only describe the scenes as being like a massive County Westmeath wedding on the streets of the town as supporters converged on the main streets in their droves. It was great to witness so many young people connecting with the achievement of this team and hopefully it will inspire the generations to come,” Jack enthused.
A selector on the Westmeath senior football team which attained provincial glory in 2004, Jack recalled that occasion 18 years ago, the replication of similar scenes on Saturday night bringing a massive sense of fulfilment at the culmination of the Lake County’s competitive campaign.
Together with the players, we, as a management, have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotion from our supporters since Saturday’s success and as I reflect on the game, it was a display complete with character in abundance.
“When in possession we always seemed to threaten with our pace in the forward line and the ability to get our restarts away at all times proved the basis for our positive offensive play. Our plan was to keep the scoreboard busy and we did so in that first half, meriting our two point interval lead,” Jack asserted.
Referencing the game’s standout moment, Jack paid great credit to Kieran Martin and the service he has given to Westmeath football, returning to the playing squad following a serious Achilles tendon injury.
“Kieran has been an immense player for Westmeath and the timing of his goal on Saturday proved crucial to the game’s outcome. His play leading up to the goal seemed to evolve in slow motion and if there was one player who deserved this moment it is Kieran.
The goal followed a period of play which saw Westmeath regain a footing in proceedings following the dismissal of Cavan’s Martin Galligan on 58 minutes - the Ulster county leading by two points when the red card was produced.
“Yes, the red card was obviously a turning point as the game entered its final phase but we were in the process of making regaining a hold on the game and such is the character of this team that I knew we were going to contest the final to the final whistle,” Jack commented.
The fitness levels of the Westmeath team were clearly evident as the game ebbed towards its conclusion, a lung busting run from Ronan Wallace securing victory with an injury time point, summing up the cohesive ‘will to compete and win’ attitude of the team.
“There is a certain togetherness and unity of purpose in this team, the players realise that it is a privilege to don the maroon and white of Westmeath and that was clearly evident to all our supporters on Saturday. I am hoping that this win will inspire the next generation of Westmeath footballers, it certainly should. The memory of winning the inaugural Tailteann Cup will live in the memory for so many, here’s hoping that such scenes are replicated in the years to come,” Jack concluded.