Westmeath fighting fit

IT didn’t happen on a Gaelic field but Denis Glennon tells an anecdote that convinces him Westmeath football will be in fine fettle in the medium term.

“I haven’t seen anything like these young lads,” gushes the captain. “Ger Egan there, we were doing a run up Cloghan Hill under Laz Molloy and he was talking about a lad running a mile on this hill in five minutes or something.

“Ger Egan did it in four minutes 30 seconds! That will tell you the type of athlete he is. When you have them lads in training and you trying to keep up with them, it will bring you on as well. I think that’s what Westmeath had this year that they didn’t have this last couple of years, these young lads driving on the seniors, and the seniors given the little bit of experience. Four minutes 30 on a hill, it’s not natural, and the last lap I thought he was under pressure, but he was actually finished. That will tell you.”

Egan is named at right-half back for Wexford Park this evening and in Glennon’s mind, he and several of the youngbloods in Pat Flanagan’s side typify the attitude required to succeed at inter-county level.

Conor Lynam is another one. They’re relatively new on the scene but few take their football more serious than them.

Glennon added: “They are all fine players and serious athletes that don’t drink or smoke. They are a different breed of footballer that’s been around. I think a lot of it is just the way they have been brought up. They have had good underage teams and teams seem to lose players as the years go on, but this U21 team seems to get players and drive each other on.”

It’s a testament to the riches Flanagan possesses that he can elect to keep Australia-bound John Heslin on the bench.

The Westmeath boss has opted instead for the Mullingar Shamrocks’ Denis Corroon and Darragh Daly in midfield who will be making SFC their debuts.

“John will be a serious loss because he is a fabulous talent,” admits Glennon.

“Westmeath is such a small county, you can’t afford to lose these players. John is one of our best players so one of the best talents I’ve seen. He is one of the most naturally gifted footballers since the likes of Martin Flanagan and Dessie Dolan.

“To lose him will be a big loss but we have to enjoy him while we have him and hopefully he will help to drive it on.”

Glennon is frank about Heslin’s chance of making it in the AFL. He has all the ingredients bar one — the right temperament.

Something that might have persuaded Flanagan to keep him in reserve this evening.

As he explains: “Ability-wise he definitely has it. I was involved with the International Rules and I’ve played the game and I’ve seen what it takes to get out there with Tadhg Kennelly and these boys. John Heslin has as much ability as any of those players. I am not trying to blow him up. He genuinely has the ability but he will just have to work on his mentality because he has got sent off in a number of big games.

“But if he works on that, I’ve no doubt that he will be able to make a success of himself out there.”

Flanagan’s wisdom is not something Glennon would readily question.

The Tyrrellspass man has won under the Offaly native and believes gaining promotion to Allianz Division 2 next year indicates he’s making the right tracks at inter-county level.

“I don’t want to slate anyone that was in there previously, but everywhere Pat Flanagan has gone he has brought success. And you can see this year Westmeath has had a lot more success than its had in the last couple of years.

“And it’s no coincidence. He brings that mentality to it that you can achieve and win things.

“We are lucky to have him and that experience, he has won championships with Clara, with me in Tyrrellpass, he’s won it in Kilbeggan, everywhere he’s gone he’s won championships.”

Ample parking for double-header

WEXFORD County Board are confident they will have enough parking for today’s games.

Four designated parking areas will be available for the games and these car parks will be signposted.

They are: St Peter’s College, Wexford Racecourse, Newtown Road (both €3), North End Grounds (€5) and the Department of the Environment on Newtown Road.

“With all those parking facilities available, it is anticipated that everyone attending this big double header should be able to park within a reasonable walking distance of Wexford Park,” said Mary Foley, Wexford PRO.

Picture: CONFIDENT CAPTAIN: Denis Glennon believes Pat Flanagan's proven track record can bring success to Westmeath. Picture: Inpho/Donall Farmer

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