Last Saturday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round robin series triumph over London means Westmeath’s summer will be defined when they face the Christy Ring Cup winners in a fortnight.
Another Westmeath success in that fixture would ensure Brian Hanley’s side avoid relegation and the hard earned triumph against London satisfied him.
“It was nip and tuck, but we got the right result,” was Hanley’s verdict. “It wasn’t a brilliant game of hurling, but I haven’t been in these relegation games too often. I was with my club when Westmeath finished last year.
“It is a different sort of situation. I’ve been preaching about the character of our players and the fact that they are so young. To be delivering in this game is good and before we hadn’t got over the line, but thankfully we did here.
Despite spurning several gilt edged goal opportunities Hanley was pleased that Westmeath eventually rattled the London net to prevail. “We missed three or four great goal chances. On another day they’d go in and you’d win handy. London’s keeper put himself in the position to make saves and we didn’t take them.
“The goal put us on the road to victory and the second one was crucial. You wouldn’t have seen them getting one back, but they did so it was important. Goals win games I suppose.”
Hanley feels that London were unfortunate in most of their fixtures highlighting the absence of key players in Mullingar. “I knew two or three from my time involved in the Galway under21s with Anthony Cunningham. Brian Regan was missing, he was centre back against us last year. Stephen Langford as well is a marquee forward for them so they were two massive losses. If you were to turn the tables and we were missing marquee players how would we have performed over in London. I think they have strength in depth and they get players. They are a lot better than the round robin league table is showing.”
One more match awaits Westmeath and Hanley wants his team to be ready for that critical contest. “No game is easy at this stage because you’re fighting with your back against the wall. That is the position we put ourselves in by not getting results in the three games previous to the London one. We are where we are and we have got to deal with it. You cannot use suspensions or injuries as an excuse if you drop your level of intensity in any game.”