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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Egan's 'big scalp' target

Westmeath captain believes they deserve 'second best in Leinster' tag as Mayo loom

Westmeath captain Ger Egan in Croke Park ahead of the All-Ireland SFC Round 4B match against Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Westmeath captain Ger Egan in Croke Park ahead of the All-Ireland SFC Round 4B match against Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Mayo's Tom Parsons and Westmeath's Ger Egan will clash on Saturday in Croke Park for a place in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Ger Egan can attest to the trappings of fame, relative as they were to Westmeath last summer.

"Last year, was just...and especially after beating Meath as well, everybody wanted a little bit of you," the Westmeath captain recalls now.

"It's kind of hard to keep away from it and keep concentrating on your football."

Hype?

The concept and its perils used to be sole preserve of Dublin, applicable equally to their ability to fill Croke Park as their inability to win the All-Ireland.

A big, oppressor-slaying, generation-defining win like Westmeath's against Meath can clearly spawn unexpected outbreaks, though.

"It's just something you're not used to," Egan explains.

"You've the likes of Kerry, Dublin, who are winning every game, they're getting used to that.

"It's not that it gets to you, it's just a distraction that you don't need. Between the white lines is where you do your work.

"This year it's just been low key and as I said, we're enjoying it a bit more."

A fourth relegation on the spin was as unexpected as Westmeath's ability not to let it affect them too deeply.

A second successive Leinster final and another free crack at Dublin worked out along fairly predictable lines and so the plan now, according to Egan is to "take a big scalp now outside of Leinster".

They play Mayo on Saturday in Croke Park so technically, they don't have any other choice.

Their now inarguable status as Leinster's second best team doesn't necessarily equate to a big billing outside the province.

"Dublin are an awesome team, they are not All-Ireland champions for nothing, so to be the best of the rest, maybe so, but look, we want to be going further afield," Egan explains.

"Look, it's not going to happen overnight.

"I think we've merited our (tag of) second best in Leinster because we've beaten five or six of the main teams in Leinster, so yeah it is, but we need to be pushing for more.

"We can't be happy with that."

Nor can they be too disconsolate over Dublin's second-half crushing performance.

Last year, they went out and tanked against Fermanagh in the very next match and now, according to Egan, Westmeath are better able to appraise their levels in relation to the rest of the competition, regardless of how much closer or further away they looked in relation to Dublin.

"Nearly GAA has gone professional without the perks of money in the back pocket but I suppose no GAA player would be doing what they're doing if they didn't want to do it," he says.

Ultra

"It is a lot of hard yards especially when you have to go and work on top of it but you know everyone wants to get to that standard and I think they are raising the bar for everyone and everyone's trying to get there.

"So is it improving GAA? I think so.

"I think it is improving football. I know teams might give out about defensive stuff but you go out to win the game the best you think possible and if that's ultra defensive or that's ultra attacking then that's what you have to do.

"We talked about that ten-minute spell leading up to the (Dublin) game after half-time," Egan remembers, "and we were going to have to go really hard at it and we kind of had sloppy mistakes and they cut loose from there.

"And what do you do then, do you go all-out defence or all-out attack? You know it's kind of gone then and that's the way it turned out."

They went down by nine points to Fermanagh in Breffni Park last year, two weeks after that Dublin match and despite their earlier heroics against Meath, Egan recalls their inability to turn a good summer into a great one with an acute sense of regret.

"Fermanagh was our opportunity last year and we didn't take it so if we're really to show that we mean business in championship we have to take a big scalp," he insists.

"But Mayo are an awesome team and we know what's ahead of us, we know what it's going to take and hopefully we can bring them improvements from the last day and hopefully be good enough.

"Because if we want to get to an All-Ireland quarter-final, we think we're good enough but as I said we need a 70-minute performance," Egan concludes.

"We need the game of our lives."

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