Encouraging Leinster Championship start for Westmeath

Tom Cribbin was delighted with how Westmeath performed to claim a deserved Leinster SFC 3-14 to 0-16 win over Louth at Drogheda on Sunday.

Inspired by John Heslin, who scored 0-9, Westmeath bagged three second-half goals courtesy of Callum McCormack, Shane Dempsey, and Ray Connellan to defeat Louth.

“It was always going to be nervy for ourselves and Louth,” Cribbin admitted.  “For us the goals came at the right time to give us confidence.  I suppose if they had got a goal or two with the breeze it might have rocked us too. We got them at the right time.”

Cribbin acknowledged Heslin’s immense contribution to the success. “He is after being unbelievable in the last number of weeks. I suppose I was moving him around the pitch all throughout the league not knowing where his best position is. John’s best position by a long, long mile is in there in the danger area because he has two great feet and he is a very good team player. He brings the best out of the young lads and he is a good option in the air too.”

Cribbin was satisfied with the brand of football Westmeath played throughout an open contest.

“When you’ve been starved of success in Championship and you are worried about it you go protective.  Lads are inclined to fall back to protect.  If you look back at the match on Saturday, at the start of the second half Offaly kicked three points to go 0-12 to 0-5 ahead; the next thing they started protecting which is the most dangerous thing to do.  If you start protecting unnoticed to yourself the other team get momentum while you try to protect.

“You have to be very happy.  We have an awful lot of young lads there.  Those young lads will take massive experience from this.  They are very young.  We are getting to know them a lot better too.”

Following Westmeath’s relegation to Division Three of the Allianz Football League Cribbin stressed his disappointment, but the Midlanders’ chief has been happy with the players’ response.

“I had strong words because we know we didn’t perform in the league,” Cribbin said.  “Those boys are definitely Division Two standard, and they know that.  I had no problems with the players; they had no problems with me.  We did well.  They got stuck in.  

“They worked very hard in training.

“I speak from the heart the whole time with them.  I was disappointed for them because sometimes you’d love to have an excuse if lads were drinking or messing.  They aren’t like that.  They are as committed a bunch as I’ve ever worked with in my life.  When you have people like that who are nice people to work with, you like them to achieve.”

Westmeath will now host Wexford in Drogheda on June 14 at Cusack Park.  “Of course we like playing at home, but sometimes playing at home brings a little bit of pressure on you too.  Until you get a few wins sometimes it might be better to be on the road.  Hopefully we can get a crowd behind us at home which will help.”

Cribbin also reckons Denis Glennon (hand injury ) and Paul Sharry (hamstring ) will be available for that clash with Wexford, while Kieran Gavin is also on the comeback trail too.

“I’d expect the two of them to be back.  We thought Denis would be okay, but he took off the plaster during the week and the fracture hadn’t healed. 

“Paul tweaked a hamstring Friday night at training. He was back after two weeks, it slightly tweaked again so we couldn’t take a chance.  That was the thinking on it because we have a month now and Kieran Gavin will hopefully be close to it in a month’s time too.  Three very experienced and solid players up the middle would be huge to get back.

“We are getting there.  We are learning how to play as a unit on the pitch.  We are learning how to communicate properly on the pitch.  They are unbelievable trainers.  They really work hard, as hard as any team I’ve ever seen.  We wanted to win a game rather than be afraid to lose it.  That is what we wanted to do.”

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