For Longford, parking the bus against Dublin would have amounted to football heresy and they duly lost their quarter-final tie by 27 points. In defence of Kildare last time out, they met a Dublin side bang on form and nothing short of positioning 15 men on their own goal line was going to contain them.
With all of that in mind, you might imagine Westmeath would be thinking in pragmatic, defensive terms ahead of Sunday’s provincial decider.
Yes, they have put up impressive 3-14, 1-21 and 3-19 tallies this summer and the remarkable scoring deeds of John Heslin and Kieran Martin against Meath have been well accounted for.
However, to trade blows with this current Dublin team is simply asking for trouble. Derry, Tyrone and, of course, Donegal last August, have all had relative success with cautious counter attacking policies.
Call him brave or foolhardy but Westmeath captain Ger Egan isn’t having any of it.
“What we showed in our three championship games so far is that we’ve gone out and attacked the game and we’ve pretty much tried to outscore our opponents,” said Egan.
“Maybe that’s a bit of naivety, but at the end of the day we still only conceded six points against Meath in the second-half. Hopefully, we can get our defensive system a little bit better again, as in holding them a bit more, but we’re definitely going to go out and attack them the way we can. Because that’s the best style we’re capable of playing.” Still, Egan accepted that Dublin will be more ruthless if Westmeath start as poorly as they did against Meath when they were 10 points down after half an hour.
“That’s why we’re going to have to start an awful lot better, get the intensity up straight away,” he continued. “And I think the lads will. We’ll relish the occasion. We’re in bonus territory, we’ve nothing to lose. If they beat us by 30 points on the day, well, then they’re after proving everyone in the country right, but if we go out and cause a shock, like we did the last day, so be it.”
To confirm, Egan is expecting Westmeath to win, a result that would leave their victory over Meath in the halfpenny place.
“We’ll be hugely disappointed if we don’t win, we’re there to win, simple as that,” said the Tyrrellspass man. “We don’t go into any final just to compete.” Westmeath’s march to a first final in 11 years, even with a favourable draw, has been nothing short of incredible.
They didn’t win a single game across 2014 and were relegated again last spring, demoting them to Division 3 football. Manager Tom Cribbin memorably called his senior players out after back-to-back relegations and suggested they lacked the stomach for a fight.
Was he correct?
“Maybe he was,” shrugged Athlone IT student Egan. “We didn’t have those leaders then like we had against Meath. Maybe he was right. We took it on the chin, you’d be wrong if you took it any other way. It was up to the older lads to raise their levels, and the young lads brought the youth and energy, then. It’s all come together at the right time.”