O'Dowd backs youngsters to maintain progress
Published 25/06/2015 | 02:30
Last January, Meath recorded a straightforward win over Westmeath in the O'Byrne Cup, leaving Lake County manager Tom Cribbin to bemoan how the Royals "have this belief in themselves that they are able to beat us every time they go out".
Westmeath, he said, suffered from the opposite affliction.
But Wicklow's display that saw them hit 3-12 in Meath's backyard has left Cribbin with plenty to pore over ahead of his side's clash with the Royals at Croke Park on Sunday - and it has left Meath manager Mick O'Dowd with lots to ponder.
Against Wicklow, the Royals started with four debutants in defence. The midfield pairing had clocked up just one Championship start between them. O'Dowd admits that it's not an ideal scenario but insists he'll continue to give youth its chance.
"They will be better for the experience, it is a policy of ours that if a player has done the work then they will be given the opportunity," he said.
"It wasn't an ideal scenario to have so many debutants in defence but it was great to have an experienced defender like Mickey Burke to come in. If we were presented with the same situation again we might err on the side of caution and have Mickey in from the start."
The Royals also recorded a win over the Lake men in the League and go in as clear favourites despite the Lake men's strong showings to see off Louth and Wexford so far.
"Who are the favourites? That isn't really relevant to me anyway," O'Dowd countered as Westmeath look to record a first Championship win over the Royals.
"The previous Championship record against Westmeath counts for nothing inside our dressing-room.
"All those stats and analysis are for other people to talk about, for us it is all about next Sunday.
"We have an opportunity to get to a Leinster final and Westmeath are the team that we need to beat to do that, and that is our total focus."
Westmeath's form has fluctuated wildly in the last few seasons but, unlike Meath, they have the experience of a campaign in Division 1. And O'Dowd warned of the talent they possess as they look to make history.
"Players like Ger Egan, Kieran Martin, John Heslin and Paul Sharry are all really strong runners and they played really well (when the sides met in the League). I'd say they were really disappointed with their shooting, so we are well aware of the threat.
"They have had two very good Championship wins over Louth and Wexford. They clocked up a really big tally against Wexford in the last quarter and that was really impressive."