Sunday 17 December 2017

'Relegation would've been a killer for Westmeath'

Coach Michael Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Coach Michael Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

It's a thin line between victory and defeat, and the inches which Al Pacino described in his famous Any Given Sunday speech were never clearer to see than in Cusack Park on Sunday.

Westmeath and Meath could both have been either promoted or relegated depending on the outcome, and the satisfaction on the face of selector/coach Michael Walsh (above) after the Lake men earned their place in the Leinster SHC quarter-final was in stark contrast to the Royals' despair.

Demotion to hurling's second tier would have left Westmeath back in the wilderness where they started, something two-time All-Ireland-winning Kilkenny goalkeeper Walsh believes could have caused irreversible damage.

"The pressure was on. This is our third year here now - Michael Ryan asked me to come up here - and we've put in savage work so to go back to the Christy Ring Cup, no disrespect to the competition or counties in it, it would have been a killer for us," Walsh said.

Victory sets up a clash with Offaly. After a disappointing Division 2A campaign, and back-to-back round-robin losses, Walsh is hoping Westmeath will spark into life but knows the Faithful will be another step up.



"It's not so much about style and skill which you want all the time but this was all about responding to adversity again: we were under pressure coming in, we lost a man who was playing very well and we still responded in the second half," he said.

"We'll be big underdogs going in the next day, they're a higher division team and they'd a really good end to the league so we'll prepare really well and have a real crack at it. We're guaranteed two more matches so we'll see how it goes."

For Tommy 'Jogger' Doyle it will be a particularly poignant game as his mother Teresa hails from Killeigh, just outside Tullamore. Family loyalties may be divided but the towering Lough Lene Gaels full-back is keen to "drive it on now".

Doyle was magnificent from start to finish on a range of Royal opponents and the 24-year-old will need a similar display to curb the threat of Offaly's chief marksman Shane Dooley.

"My mother is from Offaly so I can't wait. We had them in Cusack Park last year and that was our best performance so they're going to want revenge for that, we're going to have to step it up in training again," Doyle said.

"Any game is winnable, every team in the round-robin have beaten each other bar Laois. Teams are winning and losing during the League campaign so this game will be no different."

Irish Independent

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