Division One of the Allianz Football League isn't the easiest of environments in which to operate and Westmeath's next demanding trip is to Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday for a clash with Tyrone.
Four defeats on the spin leave Westmeath on the brink of an instant relegation, while the fact that Tyrone were comprehensively defeated by Kerry means Paul Bealin's side will face a wounded Red Hands outfit.
Tyrone had been moving smartly in the competition until a James O'Donoghue-inspired Kerry caused them plenty of bother. Tyrone’s objective of reaching the knockout stages ensures they will be primed for a match against a Westmeath side that enjoyed positive and also worrying moments when losing to Mayo.
James Horan’s visitors settled briskly in Mullingar and it initially looked as if Westmeath would be in significant trouble. There was a show of character, though, and that is what encouraged Bealin as Westmeath rallied to bring themselves back into contention. “While the result is disappointing, there are positives for us to cling on to,” Bealin said. “We came from nine points back to lead at one stage. That’s a serious sign of the character in this side.
“Plus we have handed debuts to a number of guys in this league campaign. This experience will stand to them. We’re playing the best sides in the country and while results haven’t gone our way, we aren’t going to give up. We can still survive in Division 1 with three wins.”
Mayo boss Horan, however, doesn't expect Westmeath to stitch that winning sequence together. “We needed the two points. The way some of the results have gone, it’s going to be very tight at the bottom.
“Teams playing Westmeath, the teams that are left to play Westmeath, they will fancy their chances. But all we’re looking to now is Cork coming to McHale Park next Sunday. We cannot wait for that.’
Bealin admits the upcoming month is laced with difficult assignments, but feels there is fight in his Westmeath team. “Every week we look at the next challenge and there’s absolutely nothing soft. Tyrone away, Kerry at home and Kildare away – they’re three difficult games. There’s still a bit of fight in our guys and they’ve worked hard,” said Bealin.
“At times we had the ball and gave it away stupidly, particularly from free kicks, and that gave them a bit of momentum and there was a huge crowd here from Mayo. We’ll go back to the drawing board and look at stats.”
For the second game in succession Westmeath leaked goals early on and it was something that had been discussed according to Bealin. “We spoke about the game against Derry and said it’s important that we go man-to-man and deny them time and space on the ball. And then, four or five minutes into the game, they get two goals.
"But against Derry we seemed to lie down when they got the two goals and didn’t really rally. Before the game, we asked ourselves, If they bang in two or three goals, what are we going to do?’. I thought the reaction was really, really good in terms of the response from the players.
“We turned it around to go ahead and played a good brand of football. We needed to push on when we had control of the game. Half-time probably came a bit soon at a time when we were dominating. But it was good from the perspective that it was the first time that we got some decent scores against a good team.”