Monday 11 December 2017

Where are they now?

Damien Healy

(Former Westmeath footballer)

Beating Mayo by a point in the qualifiers in 2001 was the start of a change in fortune for Westmeath football, according to former player Damien Healy. He had a feeling that success for his county would come soon after that one-point victory and three years later it did when they won the Leinster title.

The St Mary's, Rochfortbridge player joined the Westmeath panel in 1996 and made his National League debut against Antrim that year. His first Leinster championship game was against Carlow in 1998 and from then on he was a regular in the starting 15. Healy won three National League Division 2 medals in 2001, '03 and '08, and was centre-back on the 2004 Leinster championship-winning team.

Healy played for Westmeath for over a decade and during his career noticed many changes to team preparation and how the game is played.

"When I started first back in 1996 training methods were old school," explains Healy. "But over the next decade that all changed. There was a lot of gym and strength work, you had to get stronger and be able to take bigger hits. Football changed too, it became a lot faster and tactics came into play in a big way."

He retired from inter-county football in 2010 and finished up with his club last year. Today his Westmeath take on Kerry in a qualifier game in Mullingar and many of the players he faced during his career are still lining out for Kerry.

"Training constantly for a long period of time is difficult for any player but it's definitely made easier if you're winning. If a guy has put in 10 years and only won a couple of championship games, it will feel a lot longer than the guy who's won a few All-Irelands."

Healy works in GMIT as a computer services technician and is doing a master's in digital media at NUIG. Although he'll be supporting Westmeath today, he doesn't hold out much hope for them against Kerry.

"Westmeath are big underdogs, they haven't played well in the last few games but managed to get a result against Louth. However, Kerry coming to Mullingar is fantastic. A lot of young Westmeath footballers look up to the Kerry lads and will relish the opportunity to test themselves against some of the best players in the country.

"If you're going to beat Kerry now is the time to do it. The longer the run they get in the back door, the stronger they become."

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