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Sunday 4 December 2016

'Massive' option Kieran Gavin is pushing for final recall against the Dubs

Tom Cribbin
Tom Cribbin

FORMER Westmeath captain Kieran Gavin is pushing strongly for a Leinster final starting recall against Dublin - even though he hasn't played a minute of competitive football with the county all year.

Manager Tom Cribbin hailed the option of a fit-again Gavin as "massive" as he plots the most improbable of provincial final ambushes.

The Mullingar Shamrocks full-back, who skippered DCU to Sigerson Cup glory in 2012, has endured a painstaking fitness battle since tearing his Achilles tendon while on club championship duty last August.

He underwent surgery soon after, missed the entire league, didn't feature in the match-day Westmeath squads against Louth or Wexford and was an unused sub for the history-making defeat of Meath

However, having played a full challenge match away to Mayo on Sunday, he is now viewed as a viable contender to see action against the Dubs.

Cribbin hinted strongly to this effect at Westmeath's Leinster final press night in Mullingar, describing his performance against Mayo as "very good".

"He's massive to us," his manager expanded, "because Kevin Maguire would be more a natural corner-back than a full-back. And Kieran can play centre-back - he's an unbelievable leader. Every single week he's getting better and better and better - and sharper. You'd love to have three or four more weeks, but we don't."

Callum McCormack, scorer of 1-1 against Louth, is also "in the shake-up" having recovered from the hamstring injury that ruled him out against Wexford and Meath. "It's just probably sharpness. So this week I think we'll see him come on a good bit," Cribbin predicted.

However, the Maryland forward faces intense competition with John Connellan and Denis Glennon, to name just two attacking alternatives, delivering impressive semi-final cameos.

"I've five or six really top class forwards," Cribbin remarked. "The problem is, in the modern game, the max you can nearly play inside is two forwards. In very few games can you play with three inside.

"The six really top class forwards I have all need to play in the inside line. And unfortunately I can't play six in the inside line, and you've to try and get the best combination - that two of them play together as a unit, if you want to get the most out of them.

"I've gone for one very good experienced player (John Heslin) and I've gone for a young lad (Shane Dempsey) ... they're two clubmen and they've been gelling really, really well for me."

Westmeath lost to Mayo by 1-12 to 0-8 but Cribbin was "very happy with our workout. After four or five minutes they were 1-3 up. A couple of bad mistakes by us early on, trying to get used to a defensive structure and a new system for us, but we were very happy for the last three-quarters."

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