Kieran Martin: Meath win is totally in the past
WHAT became quickly apparent in the frenzied and jubilant aftermath of Westmeath’s titanic comeback win over Meath is that the least surprised people of all were the players who made it happen.
Indeed, some pondered whether their historic ignorance/apathy to the downtrodden nature of Westmeath’s relationship with their neighbours and near namesakes was precisely what made them the first generation of players to beat them.
Which is also why few of the team (any?) possess a subscription to the theory that so tumultuous and ground-breaking was their Leinster semi-final win that 2015 would be considered an unimpeachable success, regardless of what else transpired.
“A lot of people were saying that the Meath game was their Leinster final,” acknowledged Kieran Martin, Westmeath’s Action Man.
“But I know we have the players and can go far.
“We’re probably just a bit young at the moment. Ten of the team were under-21 three years ago. So we’re still developing and we just have to develop that bit more to get up to the next level.”
Nobody - but nobody - expected them to beat Dublin. And they didn’t.
Yet they drew the other cuckoo in the All-Ireland nest, Fermanagh, in the last 12 and a season that looked like winding down after the highs of Meath could go beyond where anyone believed possible.
“We knew after the Leinster final that it was a great opportunity to be back in Croke Park in a few weeks’ time so we had to get back,” Martin insists.
“We were back training on Tuesday night.
“We just had to sit down and focus an think that we can be there again in less than a month’s time.”
“And look, we’re going to do everything we to get back there.
“It will be no easy task. You see they beat Roscommon, a Division 1 team now in the League.
“They probably will be defensive but we will have to find a way to work around that and try to rack up a big score. Because you can see that they have a few scoring forwards who are taking goals and points and we just have to find a way to win the game.”
Which leaves Westmeath with a conundrum.
They performed one of the coups of this year with a high-pressing, all-out assault on Meath in the second half of the Leinster semi-final.
They also limited Dublin to just eight points with a deep-lying, organised first half performance in the provincial decider.
“If we do win it, we’re going to be playing against one of the top three or four teams in the country. It’s hard to know what to do,” Martin says.
“Do you keep going playing that way? Or do you go back to your attacking football.
“Because we will have to go a bit more defensive if we get to the quarter-final again. That’s the tough task the management have to decide.
“But look, we’re well able to rack up big scores. It’s up to them at the end of the day.
“No team is unbeatable,” he adds of Westmeath’s future prospects in Leinster and beyond.
“You could see that if we had a bit more time, we could probably have been a bit more competitive near the end.
“Any year, you never know what can happen. We have the players. If we get it right, we can push on and we can compete for a Leinster title. Maybe even more. But for the moment, we’re just at the level underneath it.”