Wednesday 21 February 2018

'We’ll need three goals to have a chance against Dublin' - Tom Cribben

Westmeath boss Cribbin demands more daring approach for Leinster final

Dejected Westmeath manager Tom Cribben leaves the field after the game. Picture: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Dejected Westmeath manager Tom Cribben leaves the field after the game. Picture: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Westmeath boss Tom Cribbin admits his team went into last year’s Leinster final hoping to avoid humiliation against Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Get three goals - concede none. That's the tallest of tall orders for Westmeath, according to manager Tom Cribbin, if they are to complete mission impossible in Croke Park on Sunday.

First ever back-to-back Leinster final appearances represent a very significant achievement for Westmeath given that they had only made it to the last game in the province three times before last year.

But any enthusiasm for such a milestone is tempered by the harsh reality of what they are facing again and how they approach it. A case of choosing the weapons for their own execution perhaps?

Cribbin has given a firm signal that Westmeath will ditch the conservatism of last year and at least have a go.

In 2015, their concession of just 2-13 was the lowest total accumulated by a Jim Gavin-managed Dublin championship team until the 12 points amassed in the All-Ireland final against Kerry.

But conversely their own six-point haul was as little as Dublin had conceded in the same period of time as they left John Heslin far too isolated.

Cribbin though has plans for a different approach.


"Any team that's going to beat Dublin has to get goals. We reckon we've no chance of beating them unless we get three goals and we don't concede one. That's the way we'll be planning the game," he pointed out. "We've nothing to lose, so the only hope we have of causing an upset, the David and Goliath thing, is to get goals."

Easier said than done but Cribbin has admitted to watching every goal conceded by Dublin over the last five or six years to search for clues as to how it might be done.

"It's really (about) believing in yourself and counter-attacking at pace. You have to get that ball in really quickly, and then follow through.

"Tyrone showed that against Cavan twice. When it looked like they nearly had goals but didn't, next thing all of a sudden Peter Harte arrived on the scene when there was no reason for him to follow through. But if he didn't follow through he wouldn't have got the goals," reflected Cribbin.

"So you have to follow through in numbers, and it's critical. If you've two lads attacking or three lads attacking, it doesn't work. You need a minimum four to five lads attacking every single time, because that's the only way to stretch them. If you take them on in physical battles, you can't beat them."

Cribbin feels the Westmeath players themselves want to "have a go", admitting their priority was to avoid the humiliation of 12 months ago.

"They feel they've nothing to lose this year. Last year, I knew by talking to them it was more they didn't want to be humiliated in Croke Park. Whereas now they don't care anything about that. They want to have a go.

"So it's easier to convince them to attack the game now and to go at it, whereas last year it was very difficult to do that. This year they want to have a cut at it.

"They have loved their experiences in Croke Park, and they're not afraid this year to have a go at it.

"There is more belief because we are willing to throw caution to the wind now. Last year they were terrified because we saw Longford and a few teams that went at them and they got demoralised and they were beaten by 20-odd points. We didn't want that to happen. We wanted to go and give a performance without getting demoralised.

"But now we have a bit of belief, have beaten Louth, Offaly, Meath, Laois and Kildare, probably the next five teams in Leinster.

"So now they feel they are entitled to have a go at Dublin. Maybe last year, they didn't feel they were entitled to have a go. Let's see how far we are away. If we are still 20 points away, we are still 20 points away."

Cribbin says he can detect an absence of pressure at training since the Kildare semi-final win. "Even compared to last year, you can feel it in the camp. The level at training has moved up a serious gear or two.

"You can see they're starting to express themselves an awful lot more. You can see them, they're really starting to enjoy their football, they're letting go, playing the way you want them to play.

"They just feel they've nothing to lose going into this Leinster final.

"Now that doesn't guarantee us anything, because if you go man to man, 15 against 15, on the Dublin players and you were picking a team and you were all neutrals picking it - not Tom Cribbin - there probably wouldn't be too many of our lads on the team."

Cribbin rates the current Dublin team as good as the Kerry team of the 1970s/'80s. "These lads are playing at a different level, a different pace. And everybody goes on about money and 'Dublin have this, they've numbers'. They've done it through underage structures."

Westmeath are likely to be without one of their chief architects John Connellan because of injury.

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