Westmeath’s defeat to Laois was an opportunity lost

Robbie Greville, Westmeath, in action against Conor Dunne, Laois at last Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier Group - Round 2 in Mullingar. Photo: David Maher/ SPORTSFILE

Robbie Greville, Westmeath, in action against Conor Dunne, Laois at last Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier Group - Round 2 in Mullingar. Photo: David Maher/ SPORTSFILE

Despite a spirited Westmeath performance Laois were still able to claim a Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round robin series win at Mullingar last Sunday. Westmeath manager Brian Hanley was proud of how his young team battled, but he felt that it was an opportunity missed. “I am gutted to be honest because that is one we should have won,” was Hanley’s verdict. Laois’ development under Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett is well documented and Hanley is adamant that Westmeath can move in the right direction too. “It is awfully disappointing. From where we got beaten in a league final last year when they absolutely obliterated us. That was the best performance by a team against Westmeath since I came in. “The work Cheddar has done you can only compliment him. The work that Laois players have done since I started to where they are now is huge. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Laois in any shape or form, but that is a game we should have won. “It is very disappointing because we didn’t get that reward we deserved. These young lads are good young lads and people need to stay believing in them. They will come good. Their effort and endeavour can only be credited. We just have to look at ourselves for the final 25 per cent as to why we didn’t win the game.” Hanley feels that Westmeath’s decision-making in the closing stages of matches needs to improve. “The goal chances and our decision making at the end was a factor. I’ve been there myself in a club game making a wrong decision in a game I’ll never forget. It is in the heat of the moment and these young lads need people to keep believing in them. I’ve 100 per cent belief in what they are doing and what they are trying to do. “We have been at it since last October. We hadn’t a good league campaign, the media would think we were doing nothing with the reports. It was disheartening for these young lads, but a game like that against Laois will bring them on an awful lot. I’ll be learning always as long as Im wearing a bainisteoir bib. Everybody has got to take and learn from it so that we come back to go again. The day you win you learn, but the day you lose you learn more.” Forging a strong ‘culture’ is something Hanley has been striving to achieve during his stint in charge of the Midlanders. “It is building a culture. It is a lot more than just turning up to play a game. Cheddar has done that. I’ve gone to watch others. I’ve worked with Anthony Cunningham down in Galway, I played myself a bit. You just know. The back-up they are getting with the county board, there is no stone being left unturned. “Some day this county will make the massive strides we are trying to make. It is disheartening when I see these lads getting grief for what they haven’t achieved this year, but the Laois game was a great performance. From where we were last year in the league final against Laois to now it is a bit disappointing and that is a bit strange or surreal. We are thinking we should have won the game.” Alan Mangan and Martin Fogarty’s assistance over the past couple of weeks is another aspect Hanley appreciates. Hanley is certain Westmeath are learning valuable lessons. “They are brilliant hurlers and young lads because they never give up. Whether you are good, bad, or indifferent as a manager one thing you’ll know is if people don’t turn up you have something wrong. These lads turn up for every training session, they have always given me and my backroom team 100 per cent. “I don’t think anyone could question our desire, our want or our will. Our fitness levels were huge and that is a credit to Peter Leahy. We have a few injuries and we need time to reflect. It was gut wrenching to lose. We had the chances and it is our own fault we didn’t win it. We are disappointed, but we will step up again. “For us to have had the chance to beat Laois these things don’t often happen. From where we have come from to put ourselves in that position is incredible and is all credit to these players and how they are buying into what we are trying to do. We have Alan Mangan and we have Martin Fogarty helping us too. These lads just need a break to go their way.”

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