From an early stage in Westmeath's Allianz Football League Division Two, campaign manager Tom Cribbin predicted that everything would boil down to the last weekend in the group and so it will be against Roscommon at Cusack Park, Mullingar on Sunday.
Last Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Cavan means Westmeath need a victory to have a chance of avoiding the drop. Competitive in the opening period at Kingspan Breffni Park, Westmeath suffered after the restart. “The lads were buzzing in the dressing room, we felt they were ready,” Cribbin said regarding Westmeath at half-time. “You could see within two to five minutes we looked flat on the pitch. Don’t ask me why because they had been bursting the door waiting to get out - the very same as the first half.
“We had put in a huge performance against the breeze. With the breeze we moved Colm back up, we had to play a more attacking brand of football. We had enough backs back, it was down to work rate.
“When we are questioned we just seem to drop our heads. Too much of the decision-making was very, very poor from lads who had been making very good decisions in the first half. The minute we are questioned we go back into ourselves, we make bad decisions and don’t stand up to be counted.”
Cribbin wants Westmeath’s attitude and application to improve against Roscommon. “It wasn’t down to football in the second half. It was down to mindset and effort. The intensity we brought in the first half just wasn’t there in the second half. How to get it is the next thing. We are not sure. The effort they are giving is unbelievable. They are at it five nights a week between their own gym sessions and on the pitch. It isn’t easy at all. Whoever we talk to or try to get help from to try to change things, it is just very difficult.”
Ensuring Westmeath aren’t relegated for a second consecutive season is the task Cribbin and his players must embrace now. “It is a huge game next weekend,” Cribbin admits. “You wouldn’t be looking forward to it the way we are to be honest. Training went really well during the week. We were expecting a big performance, we got it in the first half same as the last few matches. We are putting in a performance for a half or for a certain amount of time, but when we are questioned we just don’t seem to be able to answer the questions.
“Everyone had their say to see if we could come up with an answer. Within two minutes of the second half you could see they didn’t carry out things with the intensity they left it. Why that is happening I’m not sure.
“Nobody had an answer in there. Everybody knows the work rate and honesty just stopped. Full stop, plain and simple. The work rate and honesty just wasn’t there in the second half. When it happens to so many players it is very difficult from the sideline.”
Meanwhile the Westmeath hurlers face a Division 2A Allianz League decider against Kerry at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday afternoon.
The prize for the winners of that match is a promotion/relegation clash with Antrim so Michael Ryan’s improving side will be hoping to enjoy a productive stint.