Manager Tom Cribbin is enthused by how Westmeath are progressing despite suffering a Division Two Allianz Football League loss to Galway at Cusack Park last Sunday.
The Tribesmen eventually shaded a thrilling encounter in which Westmeath endured a couple of injuries and late misses which proved to be costly. “The lads worked really, really hard,” a proud Cribbin said. “We got a couple of injuries there towards the end which upset us a little bit.”
A long-range John Heslin free struck the woodwork in the dying seconds as Galway escaped from the Midlands armed with their second win in the competition. “We hit the post with the last kick,” Cribbin reflected. “The way both teams were playing it was always going to go down to the wire. We’d be very, very happy with the way we played coming back from the early setbacks. Obviously we wouldn’t be happy with the result. You have to win your home games, we didn’t, but I couldn’t have asked for much more from the players on the day.”
Galway were quickly out of the traps as the effective Patrick Sweeney bagged a goal to signal the visitors' intent. “They showed massive character after,” Cribbin said about his players. “It wasn’t that we started slowly, it is just that Galway’s game plan is very good. To try to counteract it, even though we had a huge amount of homework done on them, is easier said than done.
“You have to adapt on the day because sometimes lads mightn’t be as sharp as you’d like, different things.”
Ger Egan replied with a Westmeath goal before Shane Walsh converted a Galway penalty. Kieran Martin responded with another Westmeath major as the action continued at a hectic pace. “We came back twice very early on to get it to a draw by half-time,” Cribbin said. “It was in the melting pot right until the very end. Around 10 minutes before the end when Ger got in one on one - it wasn’t down to a bad shot it was just that the keeper was so good, he made a really good save. We still had the last kick to draw it, but we will learn more from these type of games. Hopefully we can pick ourselves up for the next day, to keep learning, and to be ready for the Championship.”
During the past fortnight a virus has swept through the Westmeath panel according to Cribbin. “Unfortunately the virus has made its way through the team. It has nearly gone through the whole team. It wasn’t as bad before this game, but the energy levels probably aren’t back to where we’d like them to be. They are working very, very hard. They seem to be enjoying it and there is a great camaraderie there between them all. There is a commitment to do well, to get results, to perform, and to be ready for the Championship.”
Having defeated Laois and come within a whisker of toppling Galway, Cribbin is content with how Westmeath are moving. “I’d be very happy with the two games. Every day you’re learning more. These are intense games. We’ve an awful lot of young lads in the panel and it is a whole new experience for them from club level. Next thing you’re performing at this level of football so it is great that they are getting the experience. We just have to make sure we can get enough points to stay in this division. I’m fairly confident we will do to make sure we can keep it going. You learn playing in games like this. You build character, how you bounce back from it, that is what we have to learn from and do.
“If you start looking at negatives it is very hard to pick too many because of the way they performed and the character they showed coming back twice. We were very unlucky with the goal chance and the fact that we could have got a penalty. They got a penalty, we didn’t, that was probably the difference. That could have been a six-point swing. I felt we were hard done by with the penalty, but I wouldn’t put the game down to it. We still had an opportunity at the end, unfortunately it didn’t go over for us.”
Westmeath aren’t in action again until the March 1 trip to Newbridge for a clash with Kildare. Cribbin isn't too bothered by the lengthy lay-off. “The three weeks will do us the world of good to get clear of this virus we’ve had. We will get a couple of good quality sessions in. Lads will play a couple of League matches with their clubs. We will get plenty of football and nice solid training in. I think the break will do us good.”
Galway: TJ Forde; D Kyne, C Forde, C Sweeney; P Varley (0-1 ), G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell (0-1 ); F Ó Curraoin, T Flynn; S Denvir (0-1 ), S Walsh (1-0, pen ), E Tierney; D Cummins (0-3 ), P Sweeney (1-5 ), A Varley (0-1 ). Subs: E Hoare for Tierney (36 mins ), M Breathnach for TJ Forde (36 mins ), F Hanley for C Forde (48 mins ), M Martin (0-1, f ) for Walsh (52 mins ), C Mulryan for A Varley (62 mins ).
Westmeath: D Quinn; M McCallon, J Gilligan, K Maguire; K Daly, K Martin (1-1 ), J Dolan; P Sharry, D Daly; C McCormack (0-2 ), G Egan (1-0 ), R Connellan; J Gonoud, J Heslin (0-7, 6fs ), L Smyth (0-1 ). Subs: D Lynch (0-1 ) for Gilligan (22 mins ), D Glennon for R Connellan (48 mins ), P Holloway for Lynch (55 mins ), J Connellan for Smyth (59 mins ), A Coffey for J Connellan ( 64 mins ), D Whelan for Dolan (65 mins ).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath ).