Ger Egan is hoping Westmeath can deliver a significant performance against Mayo in Saturday's All Ireland SFC Round 4B qualifier at Croke Park. Keen to take a "scalp", Egan feels that the Midlanders are primed to test a star-studded Mayo outfit. Having suffered a Leinster final defeat against Dublin, Egan wants Westmeath to be more clinical.
“We got to this stage last year, but we didn't perform against Fermanagh," Egan remarked at a press event in Croke Park. "We've said it all year, it is about progression. Are we showing progression? At the weekend we will get the answer. Hopefully we can go a step further than we did last year.
“In the first half against Dublin, and I know everyone said it was good, I felt we wasted a lot of chances kicking a lot of wides. We had a couple of half goal-scoring chances, so if we can improve on that by 50 per cent with our scoring rate we would rack on another seven or eight points. If you do that we'd have a fair total. Even that alone can go a long way to winning. Those are the small things we need, just cutting out those small basic mistakes. If we can be a bit more ruthless going forward, if we can add that to our play, it will go a long way.”
Though Westmeath were highly competitive in the opening period, Dublin finished strongly to secure an ultimately emphatic triumph. “Obviously we were hugely disappointed. You go into a final to win, it didn't turn out that way,” Egan reflects. "The challenge ahead, we are really looking forward to it. We are back in Croke Park so we are excited about that.
Mayo are a formidable outfit according to Egan. “They'll enjoy getting into Croke Park, they are a Croke Park team," he said. "They've shown that in the last few years, they would be disappointed not to have a Connacht medal in the back pocket too. So they are out for redemption, to get back where they want to be. We are going to give it everything we can, teams have caused them problems, but they are progressing nicely. They are fixing the problems from each game, so nothing but our A game is going to be good enough.
“Diarmuid O'Connor was massive for them the last day, but they have quality in nearly every position. They've pushed for an All Ireland in the last three or four years, they have a good balanced team. Their platform is coming from a good half-back line, you have to try to shut them down so they can't set up their forwards as much.
“Aidan O'Shea could be in on the square, he will take some minding as well, but they are a good balanced team. You cannot just target one or two players. You have to try to shut them down and score more at the other end.
“If you can put them on the back foot that will be the winning of the game. We will have our homework done, they will too, but whoever wants it more and performs better on the day and makes fewer errors is going to come out with a win."
With the winner reaching the last eight of the competition, Egan admits a defining 70 minutes awaits. “That is the prize at stake. It was a Leinster final the last day, but getting to an All Ireland quarter final would be a huge step in the right direction for Westmeath football."