Since Westmeath’s relegation to Division 3 and Tom Cribbin’s public declaration that his senior players were not trying hard enough, his side has beaten Louth and Wexford in the Leinster championship by a total of 16 points.
But from here on in the opposition gets a little tougher. The prospect of taking on Meath at Croke Park in a provincial semi-final is a stern test, but with the county one step away from its first Leinster final since their 2004 glory under Páidí Ó Se, Cribbin thinks there is still improvement in his side.
It was Kieran Martin’s goal on the hour mark that finally saw Westmeath shake off the shackles of self-doubt. They got a smell of the win and suddenly they could kick points for fun.
In the space of one minute in the closing stages, the entire half-back line of Paul Sharry, John Gilligan and James Dolan all kicked amazing points. Denis Glennon came off the bench and split the posts from the corner, while Ger Egan and John Heslin also found their range.
Cribbin thinks there is huge talent in his squad and even when they looked dead on their feet with 12 minutes to go he thought they’d kick again.
“We had good subs to come on and we knew we had strong leaders out there. You were waiting for them to stand up and they did to their credit,” said Cribbin.
“”We were due a rub of the green too. We were after missing three or four serious goal chances and I think when you keep creating them like that you are going to take one of them eventually. It was obvious whoever got that goal was going to go on to the win.”
In truth, Westmeath would have been disgusted with themselves had they not emerged victorious.
For most of the first-half they looked unstoppable as Martin and Shane Dempsey kicked some sweet points, while Paddy Holloway, Paul Sharry and James Dolan all broke well out of defence to launch attacks.
The home side led by 0-9 to 0-8 at the interval, and Wexford would have been very happy to have stayed that close to their hosts at that stage.
Westmeath held a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes, but with Ciaran Lyng in good form from frees and Colm Kehoe shining at midfield Wexford held on.
The home side was rocked by a black card for Ray Connellan just before half-time, but referee Fergal Kelly also dished black to Kehoe five minutes after the break, a big loss for the Yellowbellies.
Despite that setback, Wexford went on to dominate the third quarter. Points form Lyng, the superb Adrian Flynn and a brace from Kevin O’Grady saw them race into a 0-14 to 0-12 lead.
But ten minutes from time, John Heslin turned over possession for Westmeath and via Ger Egan, Martin rattled the net from close range to floor Wexford.
In the end the winning margin flattered Westmeath, but Wexford manager David Power claimed he was proud of his side and believes they can pick themselves up for the visit of Down in two weekend’s time.
“Overall, I can’t have any complaints,” said Power.
“We are definitely going in the right direction. I am sick, I am a positive person though. I’m sick for the players. They put in a huge effort there.
“We had that game in one hand and we just couldn’t get over the line.
“But as a group of players and management we can definitely go on now in the right direction. We’ve got nothing to fear playing Down in two weeks,” said Power.
This was the fist time in the last five seasons that Wexford have failed to register a Leinster championship win, but they are surely on the upward curve again and will be a threat through the backdoor.
Westmeath and Cribbin will be quietly confident of pushing a Meath side that struggled against Wicklow. With their own blend of youthful exuberance and experienced players finally pulling their weight, they could thrive at Croke Park.
K Martin (1-2), J Heslin (0-5, 4 frees), S Dempsey (0-4), J Connellan, G Egan & D Glennon (0-2 each), D Daly, J Dolan, J Gilligan & P Sharry (0-1 each)
C Lyng (0-8, 6 frees), A Flynn & K O’Grady (0-2 each), C Kehoe, J Wadding, B Brosnan (free) (0-1 each).
D Quinn; K Daly, K Maguire (J Donohoe 55 BC), P Holloway; P Sharry, J Gilligan (F Boyle 71), J Dolan; G Egan, D Daly (D Glennon 50); R Foley (L Smyth 46), R Connellan (J Connellan 33BC), D Corroon; K Martin (D Lynch 68), J Heslin, S Dempsey.
S Roche; J Wadding, N Rossiter, M Furlong (R Tierney 16); B Malone, S Donohoe, A Flynn (G Molloy 60); S Byrne, C Kehoe (P Byrne 40 BC); K Butler, B Brosnan, T Rossiter (M O’Regan 52); E Nolan (J Tubritt 47), C Lyng, K O'Grady.
Fergal Kelly (Longford)