WESTMEATH star Glennon insists league champions can be shocked in opener
AS it happens – and as Denis Glennon has no hesitancy in pointing out – two of the higher-standing achievements of his Westmeath career have come against Dublin.
Most obviously and memorably, there was the 2004 Leinster opener ... Páidí's last ambush on the Dubs in Croke Park, less than a year after his old manager and confidant Micko had pulled the same trick with Laois, the final wheel torn from the axles of Tommy Lyons' wagon.
That was just Glennon's second Championship match in maroon, certainly one of his most memorable but there have other occasions too when Westmeath have given Dublin plenty of it and those are the ones he prefers to reference right now.
In 2008, for instance, as half the Dublin team watched from the O'Mahony's end terrace in Páirc Tailteann – suspended for their part in the Parnell Park fracas with Meath a week previous – Westmeath mugged 'Pillar' Caffrey's team of a Division 2 title, a big and significant victory for a team who would go to give the same opposition the scare of their lives later that very year.
"We have played them a few times and any time we played them outside Croke Park, we beat them," Glennon points out, casually sizing up this year's Division 1 champions ahead of their meeting next Saturday week in Croke Park. "In the O'Byrne Cup, we've beaten them and in the Division 2 final in 2008.
"And in 2008, we came close to beating them in the Championship. We lost by three or four points (it was actually two). So we're not going to fear them. But at the same time, they're a serious team. They won the Division 1 and they're beating the top teams in the country so we have to prepare ourselves to play at that level."
There have, though, been times during his career when the Dubs did what they have tended to do well and mercilessly; steamroll the mid- to lower-ranking Leinster counties in Croke Park in front of their baying public.
All of 10 points separated the sides in the All-Ireland quarter-final of 2006 but certainly the Westmeath nadir in the recent rivalry was the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted by the Dubs in the 2009 Leinster semi-final when they won by a scarcely believable 27 points (4-26 to 0-11), the signal of the beginning of the end of Tomás Ó Flatharta's progressive reign.
Of those encounters, Glennon is happy enough to disregard. "If you dwell on the past too much, it can affect your future," he points out. "There are a lot of young lads here and a lot of them haven't won too much. I was lucky enough to be part of successful teams and I know what it takes to make it.
"It is going to be a big step up. They're a different calibre and they're setting the mark for the last couple of years. We're just trying to get up there and thankfully, with the young lads coming through, we're getting there."
Glennon has been omnipresent through the hectic oscillations of Westmeath's fortunes in recent years, so his sunny disposition at the progress the team has hatched for themselves is revealing.
On Sunday, whilst only scoring a single point from play against a fairly impotent Carlow team, he directly set up two goals and four points and threatened to scythe through Anthony Rainbow's team whenever possession and space presented itself.
Notably, the Denis Glennon/Dessie Dolan axis was back in operation after the latter's hiatus last year and it's not just the inside duo who are seeing the benefits.
"For the last 10 or 15 years, Dessie has been one of the best players in the country," Glennon points out. "And to have him around, especially with so many young players involved now ... when Dessie kicks a point, it lifts the whole team."
On Sunday, they operated in a two-man full-forward line, with the hugely impressive Ger Egan floating and providing and while that trio – and double goal-scorer, Kieran Martin – did most of the damage, it was in Glennon's eyes a far-from-ideal utilisation of their talents.
"Because we played so defensive against Carlow, we left two lads inside very isolated with not too many men around them," he pointed out. "So we need to work the ball in that little bit quicker. But other than that, I think we defended very well and around the middle, we won a lot of breaking ball so they'll be the things we will be working on.
"Especially the kickout, because up there, (Stephen) Cluxton tends to play the short kick-outs a lot so we will have to be trying to stop that.
"But we've no reason to doubt ourselves at this stage," he adds. "Derry beat us (in the Division 2 final) but we were right in it until the last minute of the game. Playing the club championship the week before didn't stand to us because the legs ran out of juice.
"But I don't think we will have the same problem the next time when we go up to Croke Park. We will have two weeks together as a team, something we didn't have before the League final so things are going in our favour," concludes Glennon.