'It would be fantastic to get a win next weekend'
He can breath a little easier. For now. With the threat of league relegation staved off for another season, Eamonn Fitzmaurice could afford himself a congratulatory pat on the back last Sunday. But Fitzmaurice knows that relegation scrapes isn't where Kerry teams should be so the Kerry manager won't be getting too pleased with himself for what was an expected win over a Westmeath team that are now six losses from six games in this campaign.
For Kerry and Fitzmaurice the escape from relegation can be replaced with a tentative look at the league semi-finals but there had to be a price to pay for such a bad start to this league campaign. That price came home to roost on Sunday when news of a draw between Cork and Tyrone came through. That result, coupled with Dublin's draw against Mayo the previous evening, leaves Kerry at the whim of other results on weekend seven of this competition.
Even beating Cork on Sunday and getting to eight points is no guarantee for a place in the play-offs but there is a chance.
"It's still up for grabs," Fitzmaurice said. "We're still probably an outside chance to get into a league semi-final but we felt that since the morning of the Tyrone game really that we needed to win all our remaining four games and it stays the same. That guarantees our division one status now and it would be fantastic to get a win again next weekend and see if it will be good enough to get into a league semi-final.
"Coming up here today we knew relegation was still an issue. Westmeath were fighting for their lives and if they beat us today, and if Kildare had managed to beat Derry, it was definitely going to be all up for grabs. It was important for us to win the game and make sure we were guaranteed our division one status again for next year before next weekend. Next weekend then we can have a right go at Cork and see if eight points will be enough to get us into the semi-finals."
As for the manner of the victory over Westmeath Fitzmaurice - like the Kerry supporters who travelled in good numbers to Cusack Park - was somewhat more pleased with the second half performance.
"We played well in the second half, we made a lot of mistakes in the first half. Westmeath made it very hard for us and we needed to come out in the second half and play a bit better, and in fairness, the lads did that. It was great to get the win in the end. We spoke about complacency during the week, that it was one thing we wanted to guard against because we weren't safe coming into the game. We needed to win.
"The Westmeath half forward line won a lot of breaks in the first half and they made it busy for us, but we spoke about that at half time and we got on top of that situation in the second half and improved a good bit. We had good subs ready to go and it's a squad game. We need to use our squad in every game and we did again today. The subs impacted on the game and that's important and that's been a feature of the games we have won, so we're happy with that.