'When you come back from the dead a few times, you do believe'
CORMAC SULLIVAN believes there is no footballing reason why Westmeath didn't scalp Meath at least once during his championship career with the Royals ... but a mental hang-up may help to explain it.
Sullivan was the Meath 'keeper for their two greatest escapes against Westmeath, the drawn All-Ireland quarter-final of 2001 and the deadlocked Leinster meeting of 2003.
As the retired netminder surmises, Westmeath's historic SFC blank against their neighbours may have "affected them more than it affected us. That was hanging over them - a bit maybe like the Mayo thing."
Harking back to 2001, he recalls: "They got a big lead but the big advantage for us was it was early in the game." Whereas, two years later, Dessie Dolan could have buried the ghost with that fateful final free.
"Over the years he was a super free-taker and you would have expected him, 100 percent ... it was one of those moments you couldn't believe you got away with it," Sullivan admits.
He expands: "In a few matches they were by far the better team, but they seemed to get so close to the finish line and then maybe not just believe that they were going to win. And it wasn't a case that they didn't have good footballers ... it just seemed to be more a mental thing than anything else. "
According to Sullivan, it was a "firm belief" of all Meath teams never to give up until the final whistle - "and when you do come back from the dead a few times, it does give you the belief that you can do it. And while that was a positive experience for us, I'm sure it was a negative for teams like Westmeath, looking over their shoulder with ten minutes to go."
Despite that record, he views Sunday's latest Leinster semi-final rematch as "very even" whereas his Westmeath contemporary, Paul Conway, declares: "I just have a very funny feeling that Westmeath are going to win. Just about - I think they'll scrape through."
Tom Cribbin has announced a Westmeath team showing one personnel change up front (Lorcan Smyth for Ronan Foley) along with several positional switches. Callum McCormack remains hamstrung.
WESTMEATH (SF v Meath): D Quinn; K Daly, K Maguire, J Gilligan; P Holloway, K Martin, J Dolan; P Sharry, D Daly; R Connellan, G Egan, D Corroon; L Smyth, J Heslin, S Dempsey.