Flanagan: Ref’s decisions cost us victory

Pat Flanagan slammed Martin Higgins’ performance in Mullingar yesterday and claimed some of his decisions cost Westmeath a famous “four or five point” win over Kerry.

He described the Fermanagh referee’s decision to award the free against Ronan Foley from which Colm Cooper set up Kerry’s second goal as “crazy”.

Foley was whistled by Higgins for over-carrying the ball close to the sideline in the 42nd minute.

“To me, it was crazy,” said Flanagan, who believed the goal changed the game. “I’d have to analyse the game, but I can guarantee you Kerry guys took far more steps, on numerous occasions, than Ronan did on that occasion.

“I just felt we found it more difficult to get the decisions that Kerry did.

“Was it a free? I don’t know. I’d love to sit down and be able to analyse it, sit down with somebody and maybe have a look at this, and see, at what stage, do the lesser teams get the breaks? Because certainly I don’t think we got them.”

Flanagan also believed Westmeath should have been awarded a free just a couple of minutes before John Heslin’s injury-time one.

“How we didn’t get a free down in far corner with two or three minutes to go I don’t know. When the ball came up they got a free up the other side. That’s what turns games. But you can’t say nothing about the players. They were excellent.”

Flanagan said he was “absolutely not” happy with the amount of injury-time (two minutes) at the end of normal time.

He confirmed they ordered Heslin to kick the free for a point because they believed there was still enough time remaining to go for another score.

“Yes, we told him (to) take the free, that there would be more time. I wonder if we were winning by two points would it be two minutes?

“We felt there was another minute to go, and that’s why we told him, take the free.

“The goalkeeper took about 20 seconds to kick the ball out, so again, some funny decisions. I just thought we deserved a bit better.”

Flanagan stated his side won’t get the credit they deserve for yesterday’s performance “because it’s Westmeath“.

However, he said their heavy underdogs tag coming into the game didn’t upset them.

“It didn’t bother me, because I knew what these lads were doing inside in training at home and all through the year they played some exceptional football. Sadly, we lost Kieran Gavin before the last day, and we lost Callum McCormack today. If we had them who knows that would have happened.

“We put in a huge performance, and the boys were absolutely exceptional.”

Despite his issues with Higgins, he gave Kerry their dues for recovering.

“You have to take into consideration that Kerry were beaten in an All-Ireland final last year by a point.

“These boys are seasoned campaigners, and they showed all that. When they got the goal, they knew how to go for the jugular.

“We probably just struggled for that 10 to 15 minute period, and most of their scores came then. It was an opportunity missed, no two ways about it, but maybe just a little bit of inexperience. Fatigue, as well, because we put in a big effort in the first half, and just didn’t have the legs to keep going at that pace.”

Flanagan expressed his interest in remaining in the position into next year. “I’d like to think I’ve built a foundation, and would certainly like to be here next year.”

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