Sunday 17 November 2019

Royals leave Cribbin ruing Westmeath's inferiority complex

Meath 1-13 Westmeath 0-10 - O'Byrne Cup

Meath's Graham Reilly in action against Kieran Martin of Westmeath during their O'Byrne Cup clash at Cusack Park. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Meath's Graham Reilly in action against Kieran Martin of Westmeath during their O'Byrne Cup clash at Cusack Park. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Meath's Damien Carroll in action against Damien Dolan of Westmeath during their O'Byrne Cup clash at Cusack Park. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Westmeath's Denis Glennon in action against Nicky Judge of Meath during their O'Byrne Cup clash at Cusack Park. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Around Christmas, the Westmeath team that won the county's only Leinster title back in 2004 gathered for a ten-year reunion.

It was a chance to look back on some great days but yesterday, after defeat to Meath, their 20-odd month wait for a competitive win was extended until at least Wednesday night.

Under new management and with an expected amount of January experimentation, this latest defeat, in isolation means little.

After all, Westmeath were leading at half-time and went three points up shortly after the break. And it was only when Meath introduced three first-team players that they really took control, with another star, Graham Reilly, helping himself to six points over the 70 minutes.

When Meath gathered momentum in the second half, the hosts fell away, with David Bray's goal with a quarter of an hour to play effectively settling the contest.

Afterwards, Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin revealed the extent of the confidence problem within the county.

"We just didn't have the confidence to even kick a 14-yard free over the bar," he lamented.

"We are under no illusions, Meath is Meath. But they were trying an awful lot of lads there today and they have this belief in themselves that they are able to beat us every time they go out.

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"We are the opposite. It's about getting through that and getting our confidence back now. It is going to be difficult."

"There was some very silly stuff going on beforehand where you could see lads were shocking nervous altogether. I was trying to tell them it's only an O'Byrne Cup match, this is a learning thing for the league and still they were very nervous.

"When you have gone so long and the slagging and stuff they got last year. . . As some of them said in there they are nearly nervous walking down the street now with a Westmeath bag because lads would be kind of smirking at you.

"To get through that confidence barrier with them is going to be very, very tough."

Both sides fielded largely unfamiliar teams but there was the unusual sight of a delayed throw-in as supporters queued for tickets.

But in near perfect conditions, neither side could muster much inspiration. By the 28th minute, only Reilly had scored from play. In that time Westmeath had tried three different free-takers before Ger Egan eventually took charge.

Meath had offered little too but had kept their noses in front for much of the half until Kieran Martin boomed over the hosts' first from play on the cusp of half-time. There was time too for Alan Coffey to point to hand Cribbin's side a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the break.

Meath unloaded their heavyweight bench with captain Donal Keogan, Bryan Menton and Donnacha Tobin introduced at the break and while Westmeath opened up a three-point gap, they would only score twice in the final 27 minutes as the Royals took control.

Menton raided forward to notch two almost identical points. The Royals were level on 47 minutes and playing most of their football in Westmeath's half. Reilly was superb in the final quarter, kicking four points from play to settle the tie.

And while Meath's established performers helped their side over the line, Cribbin wanted more from Denis Glennon, who came off with injury in the first half.

Glennon and the returning Gary Connaughton, who will act as both goalkeeper and selector in 2015, are the last remaining playing links to that 2004 side.

"I don't know (how serious the injury is), yet. But to me, it didn't look like he was switched on enough, for such an experienced player, there were one or two balls, maybe, he could have gone for a little bit harder. A couple of passes were 70pc," said Cribbin.

On Wednesday they face DCU in Kinnegad and Cribbin will take any sort of win: "We need to make that breakthrough and get a competitive win to give them that confidence."

Scorers: Meath: G Reilly 0-6, D Bray 1-0, D Carroll 0-3 (3f), B Menton 0-2, J Queeney, S Tobin (1f) 0-1 each. Westmeath: G Egan 0-4 (4fs), S Dempsey 0-2, I Coffey, C McCormack, K Martin, D Lynch 0-1 each.

Meath: A Markey; D Brennan, C McGill, N Judge; C McConnell, N Shortall, D Dalton; H Rooney, A Flanagan; F Toolan, D Carroll, G Reilly; S Tobin, J Queeney, R O'Dowd. Subs: B Menton for Dalton, D Keogan for Brennan, D Tobin for Judge (all h-t), J Wallace for Toolan (42), D Bray for O'Dowd (53), T McCullen for Carroll (63).

Westmeath: D Quinn; D Dolan, T Mescal, K Maguire; D Lynch, P Holloway, D Duffy; J Stapleton, G Egan; D Whelan, G Egan, K Martin; D Glennon, C McCormack, A Coffey. Subs: S Dempsey for Glennon (31), L Smyth for McCormack (42), J Rock for Maguire (45 BC), J Dolan for Coffey (48), P Sharry for Whelan (60), D McCormack for Duffy (60).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).

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