Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin believes the Midlanders can cause a Leinster Senior Football Championship Final shock against Dublin at Croke Park on Sunday.
Having reached the 2015 provincial decider, Cribbin is adamant that Westmeath can seriously test the All-Ireland champions at GAA headquarters.
“Last year, we probably didn’t honestly believe that we could,” Cribbin admitted. “This year, we believe we can. There is more belief because we are willing to throw caution to the wind now.
“Last year, they were terrified because we saw Longford and a few teams that went at them, and they got demoralised and were beaten by 20-odd points, and we didn’t want that to happen - we wanted to give a performance without getting demoralised.
“But now we have a bit of belief. We have beaten Louth, Offaly, Meath, Wexford, and Kildare, probably the next best five teams in Leinster, so now they feel they are entitled to have a go at Dublin.”
Cribbin reckons Westmeath will have benefitted from the experience gained at the same stage 12 months ago.
“They feel they’ve nothing to lose this year. Last year, it was more they didn’t want to be humiliated in Croke Park. Whereas now they don’t care anything about that - they want to have a go. So it’s easier to convince them to attack the game now and to go at it.”
Since defeating Kildare at the penultimate stage in Leinster, Cribbin and his team have dissected Dublin’s recent performances.
“Any team that’s going to beat Dublin has to get goals. We reckon we’ve no chance of beating them unless we get three goals, and we don’t concede a goal. That’s the way we’ll be planning the game. We’ve nothing to lose.”
Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton admits Jim Gavin’s team learned some valuable lessons against Westmeath in the 2015 Leinster SFC Final.
Fenton, who enjoyed a standout debut campaign, was delighted to be involved in the provincial decider at Croke Park.
“Last year, looking back it was a great learning curve for me,” Fenton reflects. “It was tight in the first half going into half-time. We had beaten Longford, we had beaten teams well and we had that cushion, but in the Leinster final against Westmeath it was tight at half-time.”
Fenton is adamant that Westmeath carry a significant threat, highlighting Paul Sharry and John Heslin’s effectiveness.
“You’re playing against the likes of Paul Sharry, he’d probably kick scores from anywhere. The likes of John Heslin, who I played with in UCD, can kick scores from anywhere as well, so we have serious competition against Westmeath. A very tough game last year, and we’re anticipating the same on Sunday.”
However, having defeated Laois and Meath in the Leinster Championship, Fenton is encouraged by Dublin’s recent form.
“The lads have really come together in the last few weeks of the league and there’s a great buzz around the place. The lads are training well, moving well, and our fitness is good.”