Westmeath might have suffered seven Allianz Football League Division One losses on the spin, but manager Paul Bealin is adamant the Midlanders can make an impact in the Leinster Senior Football Championship.
Louth will visit Mullingar next month for a provincial opener and Bealin reckons there won’t be any difficulty getting morale in the camp right as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ awaits. “No I don’t think it will be hard to get the morale of the players right,” Bealin said.
“It will be a fantastic opportunity for us. We are playing Louth at home, we will use the lessons we have learned in a very competitive Division One. Looking at Louth they didn’t have it their own way in Division Two. They have been relegated and like ourselves they will be looking to get something from the season. I know they went to Portlaoise last year and beat Laois by 10 points so we know it will be very, very difficult. Our guys will have to step up.”
Being ready for summer examinations is something that Bealin wants to achieve with a panel that is sprinkled with youngsters. “Last year they had a good league programme, but didn’t step up for championship,” Bealin said. “This year we haven’t had a particularly good league programme, but we will step up against Louth. The guys will pick themselves up and dust themselves down.
“We know we have a young side with the average age being between 22 and 23 years of age. It has been a difficult league campaign, but we will dust ourselves down. We have a chance of beating Louth and we will take that chance hopefully.”
Bealin took positives from aspects of Westmeath’s displays in the top tier, but the depth of some of the opponents in the pool was hard to compete with according to the former Dublin midfielder. “The last game was very disappointing. We found it very difficult to get up for that game after being relegated the previous week and in fairness to Kildare in terms of physical strength and endurance they are a strong, athletic team. When they got a run on us we knew they were going to cause us problems.
“I suppose losing three players in the first half didn’t help. In terms of the league programme itself we knew before a ball was kicked that it was going to very difficult to stay in Division One. We have competed against really good teams. We had a very young team against Kildare and we were a little bit naive at times.
“We’ve done well in phases of games, but we haven’t done it for 70 minutes. When you are playing against big teams when they bring on strong players off the bench we found it difficult.”
Reducing the amount of turnovers is an issue that has dogged Westmeath throughout the spring and it is something Bealin wants to rectify. “If you look at the stats against Kildare we broke even at midfield, but we were cleaned by the amount of scores. We gave away the ball 32 times and against a team like that, who have good finishers, it is going to cause all sorts of problems. That didn’t help us. The attitude of the guys and they are a very honest bunch wasn’t right. If you aren’t right for the game mentally you leave yourself exposed.”