Sport Gaelic Football

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Veteran Glennon desperate to cast Louth monkey off Westmeath backs

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IF familiarity really does breed contempt, then there should be some battle in Mullingar this evening.

Westmeath and Louth have bumped into each other so many times over the last few years it is starting to get awkward -- especially given the lopsided nature of the relationship, with the Wee County having won the last five meetings between the sides.

There was a sense of inevitability when the duo were paired together in the first round of the qualifiers, and now they face off again just over a month after they collided in the Leinster championship.

Both come into the clash nursing traumas. The Lake County are still wondering how they lost in Navan last month after a dominant display, while Louth went on to meet a Dublin team in no mood for an upset and left Croke Park on the back of an 16-point mauling.

Both sides have also been hit by emigration, with Louth's departures long-standing and well documented and Westmeath's more recent.

They lost captain Gary Connaughton to Boston this week, while hopes of a return for Dessie Dolan were hit when he departed for the same city.

There are just two survivors from the 2004 Leinster-winning team and one of those, Denis Glennon, admits that the county is still in transition.

"We've never played Louth at full strength and every time they seem to be close to their full team," he says. "I know they have lost a couple of lads to emigration, but every team is the same. We just never made a thing about it the way they have.

"Losing Gary has had a big impact, because Gary, Michael Ennis and myself were the only ones left from the Leinster-winning team.

"There are not that many experienced players, it is a very young team -- probably the most inexperienced at inter-county level -- so to lose that experience with Gary is a blow. I mean, when he talks, even myself and Mick would listen, because he is so experienced.

"Gary is one of the top three goalkeepers in the country. I don't think anyone would deny that. He has represented Leinster nearly every year and that would tell you in itself how good he is.

"But it is a great opportunity for Darren Quinn at the same time. He has been a great player at club level, he has won championships and played in the 2007 Leinster club final. He is looking forward to it."

Quinn's inclusion -- assuming he can overcome his back injury -- is the only change from the team who played so well before losing to Louth last month. Now that they have a second bite at the cherry, Glennon wants to set the record straight.

"They have been the biggest monkey on our backs. The games have been close but they just seem to have been able to get one over on us each time," he recalls.

"This time they're depleted, we're depleted and it is hard to know what way it will go. We're just hoping home advantage will stand to us."

Despite the disappointment of the defeat in Navan, Glennon is aware that Westmeath may have dodged a bullet by avoiding a date with the All- Ireland champions.

"We're so inexperienced and young, I don't think we'd be ready to face Dublin at Croke Park yet," he admits. "We need a few more years.

"It's nearly relief that we haven't played them yet. It would be a hard thing to come back from, taking a beating like that."

Glennon reckons Kildare are the model that Westmeath must follow, by investing time in their young players and building to their strengths. It may take time before they can take on the likes of the Dubs but Glennon reckons that investment will be worth it.

"Look at Kieran McGeeney in Kildare. He was working with a team who weren't achieving too much and now they are one of the top teams in the country," he remarks.

"They have had a lot of funding we haven't had, but it is proof that if you work with the team, you can achieve things and, hopefully, Pat Flanagan gets the time to do that with this Westmeath team.

"It's all about getting games, because the more experience you get the better you become.

"Retaining our Division 2 status was important because we're playing better teams and that is important for the young lads."

Irish Independent

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