Dolan: Westmeath in better place to test Dubs this time
James Dolan believes Westmeath will be much better placed to deal with the build-up to this year's Leinster final than they were 12 months ago.
Dolan played a starring role against Kildare as the Lake men progressed to back-to-back provincial decider for the first time in their history on Sunday and the Garrycastle man expects his side to be in a much better frame of mind when they meet Dublin in Croke Park next month.
"That was our first Leinster final for all these players in there," he recalled. "It was a big final. . . the parade around Croke Park, the occasion is huge.
"We don't have that problem this year. Last year we were all kind of looking around and taking it all in. This year I'm sure we'll go in a lot more focused and (take) the occasion out of it.
"We'll go up and enjoy it - they don't come around too often."
Tom Cribbin's men cobbled together a defensive game-plan in a bid to curtail the Dubs in last year's Leinster decider and it worked to an extent as they conceded just eight points in the first half.
However, Dublin found a new gear after the break and two goals in a minute put the game to bed.
"Last year we didn't do so bad in the Leinster final. We had a defensive shape but I don't know if we are going to go the same away again," said Dolan.
"We are just trying to go one better. Dublin are unbelievable at the minute so we have to do something to counteract their strengths, and maybe find some weaknesses.
"We can't wait. This is why you play football - to play in finals - and after the bad year we had (in the League) we are delighted to be playing in the Championship again and getting to a Leinster final."
Westmeath displayed remarkable stomach for the fight once again as they found themselves down by six points shortly after the interval on Sunday. Buoyed by Dolan's goal, they worked their way back into contention and eventually took a deserved one-point win.
"There was plenty of time," Dolan replied when asked if he thought the game was slipping away from them when they went six down.
"Games ebb and flow like that the whole time. We were on top and we didn't kick on from there. I kicked two wides in the first half, we kicked a few more wides and opportunities that when they got them, they were kind of sticking.
"Then they got the goal and I suppose the goal kind of woke us up again. We went at it again, no more than last year, and we are delighted to come out of the win.
"We let them get a head-start. No more than last year. . . we talked about Meath last year when we were eight and nine points down, today we were six points down and we had to turn it around again.
"We are delighted to come out of here with a win and into a Leinster final again."
It marked just a second Championship win for the county over Kildare and was another milestone on the road for a Westmeath team who have suffered three relegations on the bounce but seem to come to life for the Championship.
"We were confident, we had a long break there until the Offaly game and we played a few challenge games which we did reasonably well in," said Dolan.
"Going into the Offaly game we were very confident and we eked out a one-point win. The first game in the Championship is always going to be nip and tuck and always going to be hard. From there we had to set our sights on Kildare.
"We were confident coming in, we knew we had to stick to the plan and we knew the way they would set up as well. We knew we had to counteract it and we did a lot of thinking on our feet there in the second half.
"We were delighted to put the ball over the bar when it counted."