Saturday evening’s Leinster Senior Football Championship clash at Mullingar proved to be the latest tale of woe for Westmeath.
Eleven defeats on the spin in both League and Championship is a statistic that nobody associated with Westmeath is proud of. That Louth inflicted another beating in a winnable game merely added to the Westmeath pain.
Manager Paul Bealin bemoaned the lack of leadership following a dramatic goal by teenage Louth substitute Ryan Burns. “All over the pitch Louth had leaders and our leaders did not stand up - particularly when the goal went in,” was Bealin’s verdict.
“We have now lost 11 in a row and that is a terrible statistic to have. I knew Division 1 of the league would be difficult, but we had the potential to win that game. Sometimes the lads need to show leadership. They didn’t.”
Burns’ decisive goal was the blow that flattened Westmeath and Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke paid tribute to the promising youngster, who sits the Leaving Certificate at the start of next month. “Even putting him on, we had to second-guess ourselves before we made the change,” O’Rourke said. “There’s always a worry because he’s so young. But he has such natural ability. It wasn’t just the goal that he scored, it was his movement and ability to win the ball and drag defenders out of position.
“There’s no worries about him at all, he’s a very capable young fella and well able to handle it. He’s very level-headed and very confident. I hope he doesn’t think it’s going to work like that every day. But maybe it will.”
Louth motor on to Croke Park where they face Kildare in the June 8 provincial quarter final while Westmeath must now attempt to negotiate a passage through the qualifiers. Bealin wants Westmeath to respond during the summer. “We’re all devastated, including the backroom team, but we have to lift ourselves. It’s as simple as that. The lads will go back to their clubs. We’ll readdress, we’ll sit down and talk about it, and hopefully try and get some sort of a run in the qualifiers.”
Former Dublin midfielder Bealin wants his team to show the requisite drive and desire when they return to inter-county action at the end of June. “Hunger is something that is hugely important and our lads didn’t have it. And yes, all over the pitch they had leaders and our leaders didn't stand up, particularly when they got their goal.
“When we got our goal we had two wides immediately after that which didn’t help. We could have gone four or five up at that stage but it wasn’t to be and I think Louth themselves were deserving of the victory.”