Saturday 20 January 2018

Cribbin ignored instinct to let players 'have a go'

Dublin’s Dean Rock has his shot on goal blocked by Westmeath duo Ger Egan and Frank Boyle during the Leinster SFC. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Dean Rock has his shot on goal blocked by Westmeath duo Ger Egan and Frank Boyle during the Leinster SFC. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Westmeath boss Tom Cribbin said he ignored his own gut instinct and let his players have a cut at All-Ireland champions, Dublin in yesterday's Leinster semi-final at Croke Park.

He suggested that nobody in Westmeath wanted the team to deploy ultra-defensive tactics for the third season in a row against Dublin.

"The players didn't want it. They wanted to have a go," he said.

The result wasn't pretty.

The Division 4 champions - who hadn't lost a competitive game since going down to Mayo in Round 4 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers last July - conceded 33 scores, including four goals, as they slumped to a 31-point defeat.


In the previous two Leinster finals they had lost by margins of 15 (2016) and 13 (2015) points after opting to play defensively. By half-time yesterday they were already 13 points adrift and Dublin had spurned four goal-scoring chances.

However, the floodgates really opened in the second-half.

"My gut feeling beforehand was the only hope we would have of beating Dublin was to lock down the show completely and try and not let in goals," said Cribbin.

"But people didn't want to see that and players didn't want to see that.

"They felt we could have a go at them, but we were outclassed.

"We played with one sweeper all year and they wanted to see where we are in the class rankings playing a team of that calibre.

"We honestly felt that we could be a lot closer to them. But Dublin, they are a different class to us at the moment."

Cribbin also revealed that he had shared the defensive blueprint he had used in the 2016 and 2015 Leinster finals with Carlow boss Turlough O'Brien before their recent match against Dublin, in which the minnows frustrated the All-Ireland champions for long periods and denied them a goal.

In the unlikely event of Dublin and Westmeath clashing again in the 2017 series, Cribbin admitted that it would be back to Plan A - 11 players behind the ball and two sweepers.

"I would lock up shop. You would have to play with two sweepers. Turlough O'Brien is a good friend of mine and I said they can't be played without two sweepers," he said.

"You might ask why we didn't do that today. It was because the lads wanted to have a go. We felt that we were ready to have a go.

"We didn't go out to lose the game; we wanted to go and see where we are at.

"Our approach was the difference in the scoreline compared to the last two years.

"The only way we would handle them - and to be honest I probably knew it in my heart and soul before the game - we needed a minimum of 11 guys back, play the zonal defence and two sweepers," he added.

"But unless you have machines that can get up and down the pitch, you are not going to beat them. You might hold them back and keep the score down."

Cribbin also called for the re-structuring of the All-Ireland series with the introduction of a tiered championship, where the winners would then be allowed to go back into the All-Ireland series proper.

"That would give 16 counties an unbelievable bonus to get on the big stage," he suggested.

Irish Independent

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