Sunday 22 July 2018

Overcoming provincial blues is no mean feat

Former Westmeath boss Cribbin explains why it's so hard to turn things around after heavy final loss

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea scores his side’s third goal against Westmeath, who were knocked out of the Qualifiers at the Round 4 stage after losing the 2016 Leinster final Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea scores his side’s third goal against Westmeath, who were knocked out of the Qualifiers at the Round 4 stage after losing the 2016 Leinster final Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If past trends prove reliable, only one of the four beaten provincial football finalists will qualify for the inaugural 'Super 8' All-Ireland quarter-finals, which begin on the weekend after next.

Cork, Fermanagh, Laois and Roscommon play Round 3 qualifier winners next weekend, with three of them coming off heavy defeats.

Laois lost to Dublin by 18 points, Cork were 17 points adrift of Kerry, Fermanagh went down to Donegal by 12 points, leaving Roscommon - four-point losers against Galway - as the only team who emerged from a provincial final defeat in a relatively upbeat mood.

Roscommon were bitterly disappointed initially, but a review of the game showed up a range of positive aspects which they hope to exploit more consistently against Armagh in Portlaoise on Saturday.

Cork, Fermanagh and Laois had much less to hearten them and won't be encouraged if they check how previous beaten provincial finalists have fared over the years.

Setbacks

Since the qualifier system was introduced in 2001, only 25 of 68 losing provincial finalists have won Round 4 games. That's almost a two-to-one ratio in favour of Round 3 winners.

It's scarcely surprising as they have built up renewed momentum, whereas beaten provincial finalists can be deflated, especially if they have suffered serious setbacks.

"Losing a provincial final heavily really sets you back - there's no doubt about that. Players try to put it out of their heads but they can still feel that if they lost that badly, they're well behind the top teams. It's hard to pick up from that very quickly," said former Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.

He had first-hand experience in 2015 and 2016 after Westmeath suffered 13 and 19-point defeats against Dublin in the Leinster final.

Westmeath lost to Fermanagh by nine points in the 2015 qualifiers and to Mayo by seven points in 2016.

Roscommon, who were beaten by Clare in Round 4 after losing the 2016 Connacht final replay to Galway, have had the longest break this year, which Cribbin believes will be helpful.

They faced a six-day turnaround two years ago, making them a relatively easy target for a highly-energised Clare outfit. They will have had three weeks to prepare for Saturday's game, which Cribbin believes they will win.

"Kevin (McStay) has built a good team there. They ran Galway close right to the end and the only ones to beat Galway in Division 1 were Dublin. And then Galway beat Mayo.

"Galway have had an impressive season so far, so losing to them won't have set Roscommon back very much from a psychological viewpoint. They know there's more in them. I'd fancy them to beat Armagh," he said.

Westmeath struggled in Round 4 after losing heavily to Dublin in successive Leinster finals and Cribbin feels that Laois could have similar difficulties against Monaghan on Sunday.

"Laois will have a go but this is a tough one for them after the Leinster final. Whatever happens, Laois are in bonus territory after getting promoted out of Division 4 and reaching the Leinster final.

"It will be hard though against this Monaghan team. Losing to Fermanagh really hurt them. They would have fancied themselves for the Ulster title and when it didn't happen, they will be very driven to get into the 'Super 8' this way," said Cribbin.

Kildare's dramatic win over Mayo last Sunday has left them warm favourites to beat Fermanagh, but Cribbin warns that it could be a difficult assignment.

"I fancy them to win all right, but Fermanagh won't come out to play like Mayo did. Fermanagh will sit back and try to frustrate Kildare.

"Cian (O'Neill) knows that and will plan accordingly, although he has had very little time.

"It's important for Kildare supporters to be patient. If Fermanagh aren't too deflated by what happened against Donegal and get back to playing the way they did against Armagh and Monaghan, they will be hard to break down.

"That's the way they are and the Kildare public need to accept it and give the lads a chance to figure it out. Also, Kildare had a very hard game last week - that adds to the demands this time too.

"Kildare put an awful lot into last Saturday's game and won't have been able to do much work this week. It's all about rest and recovery after a game like that."

Cribbin believes Cork's surprisingly big defeat by Kerry will be followed by a championship exit when they play Tyrone.

"I can't see them being able to cope with Tyrone's defensive style. Tyrone have it down to a fine art - locking up the defence and then counter-attacking at speed. I doubt if Cork will be able for that.

"I was impressed though by the manager (Ronan McCarthy) after the Kerry game in how he reacted to what was an awful day.

"He wasn't critical of his players but he challenged them to go out and try to rectify things the next day.

"They are not as bad as they looked at times that day. There has to be a kick in them," said Cribbin.

Irish Independent

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