O'Shaughnessy: Lakemen have firepower to blow Louth away
Westmeath may have been relegated from Division 1 but they are hoping that playing their league football at a higher level than Louth will make the difference in their expected dog-fight of a Leinster opener in Mullingar tonight.
David O'Shaughnessy, the former star midfielder who captained the Lakemen to their historic Leinster title in 2004, is confident that Westmeath's forwards will be too strong.
"In a way, both teams are very similar; we're both coming off relegation so the confidence of both probably has taken a blow," he said.
"Both counties always produce gifted individuals. We have John Heslin and Dessie Dolan and Louth have people like Paddy Keenan and Eoin Lennon.
"The problem for counties like us is that we just don't have enough of them playing at the same time, we don't have the same strength in depth as the bigger counties.
"The modern game – the speed and attacking style of it – means you really need 20 players now who are at the same level and that's probably what we're both missing.
"But while we've been relegated from Division 1, Louth are gone down to Division 3 and in Westmeath we'd feel we have better forwards, with more quality up front. We're optimistic while also realistic.
"The black card appears to suit talented forwards and you'd imagine with players like Ger Egan, Denis Glennon, Dessie and John Heslin, that Westmeath can get across the line."
With the winner playing Kildare next, towering Garrycastle star O'Shaughnessy believes there is a fantastic opportunity there for the winner of tonight's encounter "because the Kildare team are probably low on confidence themselves at the moment."
He continued: "I know we had a bad league result against them but there were actually some positives for Westmeath to take out of Division 1. We gave Dublin a good game and played well against Kerry too, so it certainly wasn't all bad.
"We'd a good U-21 team a few years ago that met Dublin in Parnell Park and there's young players there like Heslin, Callum McCormack, Ger Egan, Kieran Gavin and Kevin Maguire, who can provide the nucleus of another good team again."
O'Shaughnessy was one of the heroes of Westmeath's last great team, winning an All-Ireland U-21 in 1999, followed by that famous Leinster senior title overseen by Paidi O Se.
He came painfully close to another medal three years ago with Garrycastle, when they had Crossmaglen on the rack in the All-Ireland club final but let it slip and lost the replay.
O'Shaughnessy will miss tonight's game as he will still be in Kerry recovering after being one of the 32 All-Ireland winning players who gave up their time to climb Carrauntoohil yesterday in aid of the 'Sam to the Summit' charity fundraiser for the Alan Kerins projects.
Now living with his young family in Dublin, where he works in banking, he is still playing his club football with Garrycastle and revealed that pilates classes have helped cure him of the back injuries that dogged the late stages of his inter-county career.
But he also trains, twice a week, with Clontarf GAA club now, where former Dublin star and trainer Noel McCaffrey puts him through his paces.
And that has given O'Shaughnessy some valuable insight in what is making the Sky Blues so omnipotent in Leinster football.
"The structures and commitment are pretty similar in club set-ups," he said. "But it's quite evident that Dublin have this conveyor-belt of young players, you can see it in Clontarf alone, their minors and U-21s are phenomenal.
"The development work that Dublin are doing with their young players is a real eye-opener for me.
"They appear to have a mentoring programme for young Dublin players to contact an assigned senior player if they need help or advice on things like their work-life balance.
"That's the sort of development work they are doing which seems to be way ahead of everyone else."
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