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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Westmeath will give all, reveals skipper Ger Egan ahead of Dubs final test

Lakesiders' captain admits side need to improve but will be 'hugely disappointed' if they don't beat Dublin in Leinster Final on Sunday

Ger Egan, right, Westmeath, and Kevin McManamon, Dublin, with the Delaney cup, at the GAA Leinster Football Final Preview. Croke Park, Dublin
Ger Egan, right, Westmeath, and Kevin McManamon, Dublin, with the Delaney cup, at the GAA Leinster Football Final Preview. Croke Park, Dublin

FOR GER Egan, there is no relative success. No spectrum of achievement.

There is, he says, just winning and losing.

And having indulged gluttonously in the latter of late, he and his Westmeath are now wolfing down their fair and belated share of the former.

So when it's put to the Westmeath captain - a little patronisingly, it must be said - that their history-defying victory over Meath and hence, their unexpected, almost novelty, appearance in the Leinster final next Sunday should sate their seasonal appetite and allow them a, say, 10 point defeat margin for mild satisfaction against Dublin, he's not really interested in cutting a deal.

"No, we'll be hugely disappointed if we don't win, we're there to win, simple as that," he says, showing the sort of impish disregard for expectation that finally saw his team slay the big, bad wolf of the East in Croke Park a couple of Sundays back.

"You don't go into any final just to compete.

"They're the best team in the country and the style of football they're playing... you can't be anything but impressed but we're going out to play our style and all we can do is worry about our performance on the day.

"I suppose win or lose on Sunday we still have another game," Egan states, before adding happily: "Our new goal is to hopefully win Leinster and get into an All-Ireland quarter-final."

All of which seems not just a far cry, but a distant sob, from the sort of talk that surrounded Westmeath football for most of the past two years.

Not that anyone was paying too much attention to it, mind.

To recap: on January 8th of this year, Westmeath beat DCU in Group C of the O'Byrne Cup in Mullingar, a development notable only for the fact that it arrived 598 days after the county last won a match of any competition description.

As an encore to that little symphony, they were relegated from Division 2 to Division 3, a year after tumbling from Division 1.

"It was a horrific 18 months and the criticism we got," Egan recalls, "and some of it was probably justifiable because it hasn't been good enough from a Westmeath point of view.

"But I don't know if there has been a real turning point.

"We have trained very hard since the start of the year and maybe it's because there is a bit more experience is being shown now, a lot of those lads have five or six years on the trot together and it's just finally coming together at the right time."

Upon their relegation after defeat to Roscommon in Mullingar, Tom Cribbin decided it might be a decent time to have a public go at his senior players.

Just, ya' know, to lift the mood a bit.

"There's a few big players just not performing for us, I don't know why or what's wrong," he chirped.

"You need your big players to perform if you're going to deliver.

"You're expecting poor young Shane Dempsey in his first year to come on and win matches for you, when you've senior players… that's just not f**kin' not on, excuse my language. This is just not going to happen.

"These big players are not standing up. I don't know why or what's going on with them but it's the main lads."

Egan isn't sure as to the exact target of Cribbin's missile but as captain, he was hardly unharmed by its shrapnel.

"It's my job to lead on and off the pitch," Egan shrugs.

"I try and do that, to lead on and off the pitch.

"I wouldn't take it as him pointing straight at me though, it was every one of us, he needed more out of us.

"He did get more out of us. Tom's a great man and everyone respects us.

"The stuff he's done for us so far...I'll tell you even if we didn't win last Sunday he'd be 100 per cent proud of us for what we did achieve.

"We didn't have those leaders like we had against Meath," he reflects of the League campaign.

"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 and it's after coming together at the right time."

"It was a goal from the start of the year that when the draw was made we wanted to meet Meath in the semi-final," he adds.

"That is no disrespect to Louth or Wexford because they were huge steps to take. But just to create history the way we did and the way the game went, it was hard to take in, you know."

And now?

Just two days after Meath were caught and devoured, as if to confirm that Westmeath's planets were aligning, RTÉ aired their 'Páidí Ó Sé: A Legacy' documentary, contained in which were footage and reminders of his Leinster success with the county in 2004.

"People come up to you and say the win last Sunday was nearly better than 2004," Egan says.

"It just shows what it meant to people and I suppose the scenes after the game showed that.

"There were more people crying than anything. I know my father alone at home is like a two-year-old boy! It's great."

Not that the Dubs are likely to write themselves into another famous chapter of Westmeath football history.

"They're going to be more ruthless," Egan states.

"They're not going to let you back into the game the same way, I wouldn't expect they would.

"That's why we're going to have to start an awful lot better, get the intensity up straight away.

"If they beat us by 30 points on the day well then they're after proving everyone in the country right," Egan concludes.

"If we go out and cause a shock, like we did the last day, so be it."

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