Dubs defeat will stand to Westmeath, says Martin
Published 23/07/2015 | 02:30
Westmeath are still young, Kieran Martin says.
Young enough that he believes they can realistically aim for a Leinster title in the next few years. But old enough to know that they need to be getting another run out in Croke Park to call the season a success.
He knows what some people felt after the Meath game. Even allowing for a second successive relegation and regardless of what was to follow, that made their season a good one in the eyes of some.
But Martin would like to think of it as a step along the road, rather than a journey in itself. "A lot of people were saying that the Meath game was their Leinster final," Martin reasons. "But I know we have the players and can go far.
"We're probably just a bit young at the moment. Ten of the team were U-21 three years ago.
"So we're still developing and we just have to develop that bit more to get up to the next level."
That's not to say they aren't aiming for the next level.
"Definitely (we can win a Leinster) if the lads keep pushing the right way. But you don't know what's going to happen in the future. Some lads might go to America, that kind of thing.
"But if we can keep that group of players together, you never know what could happen."
The Leinster final was something of an eye-opener. Martin was named footballer of the month for June after a powerful display against the Royals that saw him use his considerable strength to barrel along the touchline to fist two crucial points.
Dublin were on a different level, however. And even the man who has become known as 'The Bear' wasn't having things his own way in the physical exchanges.
"(Dublin) have everything but the thing I noticed is how strong they are in the tackle. Just, they can tackle properly," said the Maryland clubman.
"They go straight for the ball and you can't run by them as easy. They're just so physically strong, fit and mobile...they have everything.
"They are probably the number one team in the country.
"We learned a lot from it. Probably the occasion got to some lads. That happens. Especially when you're not there too often.
"We've never played in front of a crowd that big before and it's hard to hear anything out on the pitch. When you're not used to it, things start to crumble.
"And you could see, probably, at the start of the second half, things didn't go our way.
"We were in it at half-time, which we were hoping to be.
"But the goals killed the game altogether."
Westmeath went into the Leinster final playing a defensive game plan they put together in just a fortnight. They had held the Dubs to just eight points by the half-time whistle but two quickfire goals settled the contest.
"No team is unbeatable," Martin continued. "You could see that if we had a bit more time, we could probably have been a bit more competitive near the end.
"It just shows you….last year, nobody expected Donegal to beat them. And it happened. Any year, you never know what can happen.
"At the start of every year, we're just focused to go as far as we can. We have the players. If we get it right, we can push on and we can compete for a Leinster title. Maybe even more.
"But for the moment, we're just at the level underneath it."
Their campaign isn't over yet. A win over Fermanagh in Cavan on Saturday evening and they'll get another run out in Croke Park and another shot at top level opponents.
It leaves Westmeath - likely to be without injured sharpshooter John Heslin - in something of a quandary. Do they revert to the football that saw them hit 7-54 in their run to the provincial final? Or do they opt for the safety first style of play that they'll need to develop to give themselves a fighting chance against the big guns.
"It will be no easy task. You see, they (Fermanagh) beat Roscommon, who are a Division 1 team now in the league. They probably will be defensive but we will have to find a way to work around that and try to rack up a big score.
"If we do win it, we're going to be playing against one of the top three or four teams in the country. It's hard to know what to do.
"Do you keep going playing that way? Or do you go back to your attacking football.
"Because we will have to go a bit more defensive if we get to the quarter-final again.
"That's the tough task and the management have to decide."