Saturday night in Pairc Tailteann will be Westmeath’s next Allianz Football League Division Two examination, but Tom Cribben’s side will make the short journey to Navan encouraged by last Sunday’s stirring win over Kildare.
That splendid result edged Westmeath to the top of the table with two victories from three games registered in a highly competitive pool. Meath have only played two matches losing to Galway before beating the Lilywhites so this weekend’s clash is vital.
At Newbridge John Heslin landed six frees, while Denis Glennon contributed three excellent points as Westmeath posted a fine triumph. Cribben is thrilled by the manner in which his players continue to improve responding to the small setback against Galway. “I knew we were going fairly well,” Cribben admitted. “We were unlucky against Galway.
“I felt it was more our mistakes and we learned an awful lot from the Galway boys because they didn’t give much possession away.”
That is why Westmeath focused on being clever in possession and more clinical in attack according to Cribben. “We knew that if we could stay in control a bit better and not drop so many into the keeper’s hands that we had the battling qualities. We really learned that in the DCU game because we really want to do well this year.
“Unfortunately it is against my own county, but when you are with a team you have to do your best for the team. One or two lads needed to perform and they did perform.”
The return of goalkeeper Gary Connaughton between the sticks was a talking point and Cribben paid tribute to his influence. “Gary is a real leader. He gives you great confidence when he is in there. The whole panel showed great character. They worked fierce hard.
“Kildare asked tough questions in the second half and we weathered the storm. When they started attacking us we clipped over a few points to get the win.”
Westmeath are completely aware that the Meath contest will be significant. “The Meath game will be just as tough, probably tougher. They know that we’ve four points so they will have to perform. They are at home and they showed the character they have against Kildare.
“It will be a big game for us. We are learning the whole time. Every single game if we can, we must improve and learn. Three or four of the under 21s will play again during the week and they are crucial. Meath are in the same boat. If we pick up no injuries it would be a great help.
“The lads are mad to play, to represent their county well at senior level. Lucky enough nobody picked up an injury, last week at under 21 training one or two did. They are all okay now. The Kildare game was a good, tough, and fast game. It will give them massive confidence.”
Buoyed up by the passion Westmeath are demonstrating, Cribben was delighted by how his team secured a valuable victory against Kildare. “After our first performance we knew we were going in the right direction. The second game we put up a really, really good battle at home. We didn't underestimate Galway - they just played really well on the day, 2-12 should be winning most games, but it didn’t. We just tightened up on some things to come away with the result which puts us in a good position.