Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin hopes to remain at the helm in 2016.
Cribbin has made a significant impact with Westmeath in 2015, steering them into a Leinster final, but Saturday’s Kingspan Breffni Park All-Ireland round 4A qualifier defeat to Fermanagh was disappointing. “There are a lot of good young lads there,” Cribbin said about the potential in Westmeath. “It is tough on them. It is very, very hard work and there is a huge commitment. Hopefully they will drive on from here.
“I presume I will have to sit down with the County Board to assess the year and with the team. The most important thing is to sit down with the team to make sure they feel we can go in the right direction.”
Looking back on the league campaign, which ended with relegation to Division Three, Cribbin said: “It was topsy turvy in the league. It is all about championship football and with a young team we are probably in a good place to be building from in Division Three. You have to learn to walk before you start running. The lads put in a good year this year. We have a crowd behind us again. A lot of people in Westmeath enjoyed their football again this year. There are a lot of good young lads in the panel. It is all positive.”
Westmeath’s cause last weekend in Cavan was scarcely aided by the unavailability of the injured John Heslin. “John is a top class player,” Cribbin said. “We probably missed a few frees from both sides. Those are the things when you’re trying to make a breakthrough that you cannot afford not to. All those little things. A player like John is able to compose the whole team by getting on the ball at times and kicking important scores.”
Without Heslin, John Connellan assumed a key role in attack for Westmeath, but a hamstring problem forced him off at half-time. “John is a very composed player as well,” Cribbin reflected. “He was in great form, even taking frees which normally wouldn’t be his thing he showed great leadership in the first half. Unfortunately just before half-time his hamstring went again.”
Considering how bright Westmeath were early on, the fact that the teams departed level at 0-5 each at half-time was a worry. “If you take the first half we were playing really well. We were playing really well defensively. Everything seemed to be going right, but the next thing we sat back and it was five points all. It was still that at half-time so you cannot blame the Leinster final or anything else. In the second half we just didn’t play.
“An awful lot of nervous energy showed in the players out there unfortunately. It was a massive, massive step for them. Fermanagh got promotion this year, they have a lot of good games behind them. They are after having a few good games in the qualifiers. We were coming straight after a defeat.”
Fermanagh will make a first All-Ireland quarter final appearance since 2004 and their boss Pete McGrath was thrilled to negotiate the Westmeath hurdle. “We will approach the game on Sunday in the exact same way as we’ve approached every other game this year,” McGrath said, ahead of the last eight tussle with favourites Dublin.
McGrath reckoned the three points Tomas Corrigan kicked immediately before the break were vital. “A lot of things were pushing against us but the five minutes before half time certainly steadied the ship,” McGrath said. “There were a lot of tentative performances in the first half and when you start hitting a lot of wides, it can destabilise a team.
“At half time we all, management and players, accepted that we weren’t playing well enough, but we were still level. We knew if we went out in the second half and brought our best performance into the game, then we were going to win it.”