New Westmeath manager Tom Cribben indicated his players have a crisis of confidence after failing to arrest a winless run going back to May 2013.
In his first game in charge, Cribben saw his side surrender a 0-5 to 0-4 half-time lead to neighbours Meath in this O’Byrne Cup clash in Mullingar. The defeat extended their losing sequence of games to 15 matches.
A blitz of 1-2 in less than three minutes, the goal coming from David Bray with his first kick, put the visitors into a six-point lead in the 55th minute, a winning margin they enjoyed at full-time.
Cribben was also critical of veteran forward Denis Glennon who was replaced in the first half after picking up an injury and questioned his leadership.
But he was more concerned by the nervousness in his panel prior to the game and at half-time, claiming that “we didn’t believe in ourselves”.
He said: “We’re under no illusions. Meath is Meath but they were trying an awful lot of lads there; they have this belief in themselves that they will beat us every time they go out.
“We’re the opposite and getting through that and getting their confidence back now is going to be difficult. They’re training really well. There’s a huge commitment being put in. That’s why today was going to be a big eye-opener for us. It was great to get a team like Meath because, if we got one of the weaker counties and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way but a team they were used to beating, they would probably go out in a different mindset.
“There was some very silly stuff that went on between us beforehand where lads were shocking nervous altogether. I was trying to tell them ‘it’s only an O’Byrne Cup match, this is a learning thing for the league’ and still they were very nervous. When you’ve gone on so long (without a win) and the slagging and stuff they got last year... some of them said in there (the dressing room) that they were nearly nervous walking down the street now with a Westmeath bag because lads would be smirking at you. To get through that confidence barrier with them is going to be very tough.”
When asked if he knew the extent of Glennon’s injury, Cribben replied: “I don’t know yet. To me, he didn’t look like he was switched on enough for an experienced player and leader. One or two balls he could have went for a bit harder. A couple of passes were 70%.
Westmeath actually went three points up in the 44th minute though a Sean Dempsey effort but it wasn’t until he found his range again 12 minutes later that they scored again. By that stage, Meath had fired 1-6 without reply. If Ger Egan had been instrumental in providing Westmeath with the early advantages, Graham Reilly was superb throughout. He posted two of his six points in the first half finding space through the centre but in the latter period was given too much free rein as Westmeath experimented with their shape.
Manager Mick O’Dowd was pleased: “Biggie (Reilly) has been training well and hard and it is his eighth season with Meath so he is experienced player. I’ve made the point before that it is a new team in general. A lot of players even the likes of Donal Keogan are coming into their fourth season so we don’t have loads of seasoned players in the seven/eight season bracket which I think you need to have. It’s good he stood up today.”
O’Dowd revealed he hopes to have Eamonn Wallace available for the early part of the National League. Cribben confirmed he won’t approach Dessie Dolan about a possible return to the Westmeath panel for another few weeks.
Scorers for Westmeath: G Egan (0-4, frees); S Dempsey (0-2); K Martin, A Coffey, D Lynch, C McCormack (0-1 each).
Scorers for Meath: G Reilly (0-6); D Carroll (0-4, frees); D Bray (1-0); B Menton (0-2); J Queeney (0-1).
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; D Dolan, T Mescal, K Maguire; D Lynch, P Holloway, J Egan; J Stapleton, D Duffy; K Martin, G Egan, D Whelan; A Coffey, C McCormack, D Glennon.
Subs for Westmeath: S Dempsey for D Glennon (inj 31); L Smyth for C McCormack (inj 41); J Dolan for A Coffey (48); J Rock for K Maguire (black, 45); P Sharry for D Whelan (50); D McCormack for D Duffy (60).
MEATH: A Markey; N Judge, C McGill, D Brennan; C McConnell, N Shorthall, D Dalton; H Rooney, A Flanagan; F Toolan, D Carroll, G Reilly; R O’Dowd, J Queeney, S Tobin.
Subs for Meath: D Keogan for D Brennan, D Tobin for N Judge, B Menton for D Dalton (all h-t); J Wallace for F Toolan (41); D Bray for R O’Dowd (54); T McCullen for D Carroll (64).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).