Down strolled to an emphatic 2-17 to 0-10 Allianz Football League Division Two success over Westmeath at Cusack Park, Mullingar on Sunday.
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin hopes Westmeath can respond in their remaining fixtures to avoid a second successive relegation. “It was a bad day,” Cribbin admitted. “When we get put under pressure we seem to get very lacklustre. We don’t seem to play as a cohesive unit and our work rate just wasn’t good enough.
“Then we start letting them come through us and lads start falling back to hide not taking responsibility, not doing what they were asked. There probably is a bigger picture too, but maybe on the back of the year they had last year, mentally when we are being put under pressure we aren’t dealing with it well.”
Donal O’Hare and Arthur McConville grabbed goals for Down, but Cribbin reckoned they could have scored more only for veteran goalkeeper Gary Connaughton’s contribution.
“From our point of view Gary could be man of the match because there could have been a few more goals. They were able to come through us no problem. You cannot wave a magic wand. If we get in front and are ahead we seem to able to cope with things and we are working hard. If we aren’t we seem to throw in the towel basically.
“We gave away a few silly passes when we needed to stay in control of the situation. There were a few bright things. Shane (Dempsey ) went on and was excellent. Down just seemed to cope with things better. When we made the few mistakes lads were dropping their heads. Too many were dropping their heads. That is really it.”
Westmeath face an awkward assignment away to Cavan on Saturday March 28 and Cribbin will change his starting XV for that crunch encounter. “I think there could be five or six changes the next day without a doubt. We cannot do this again. I’m going to make sure that no matter what happens the next day that there will be 15 lads who stay with the plan 100 per cent.
“I just want 100 per cent effort; whether they are the best football ability I’m not sure, but what I want is 100 per cent commitment on the pitch. The effort is what I want the next day.
“We knew that it was going to be a very difficult division. Six points mightn’t even get you safe. The match next weekend between Galway and Laois will be a humdinger. Our scoring difference isn’t good, but we have two matches. It is still in our own hands. If we get two more points the head-to-head might come into play.
“Cavan and Roscommon - their backs were to the wall, but they both won and are now on five points. Our backs are to the wall, we have to deliver now.”
Down manager Jim McCorry was thrilled by the success. “This victory against Westmeath was built out of a solid team performance. If someone was to ask me to pick a man of the match award I wouldn’t be able. From our goalkeeper right out to our corner-forward, our boys delivered and from that perspective I’m very pleased with their account.
“I thought our keeper Stevie Kane was very good with any high ball that came in front of him; he was equally good with his distribution from the kick-outs. Our full-back line supported each other and protected Stevie all afternoon. Considering we lost one of the best defenders in Down, Darren O’Hagan, to injury, and just before the throw-in we had another set-back when centre-back Brendan McCardle was forced to sit out, the lads who came in worked tirelessly and fitted in seamlessly. I was delighted that we could use the full quota of players and they all played their part in the victory.”
McCorry was encouraged by the damage his full forward line inflicted. “We have a great inside forward line, there’s a nice blend between our more senior players and the new lads that have been introduced.
“I thought their decision-making was very good; against Galway it was very poor, both defensively and offensively. However it was better in both departments and I’m very pleased with their overall performance.”