Tuesday 21 November 2017

Players wanted to have real go

Cribbin: I'd use two sweepers

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin watches from the sideline at Croke Park yesterday. SPORTSFILE
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin watches from the sideline at Croke Park yesterday. SPORTSFILE

So Tom Cribbin, where did it all go wrong?

When you lose 31 points, that question tends not to have a single answer but if anything, the Westmeath manager's crime was listening too much to his own players.

"My gut feeling beforehand was the only hope you would have of beating Dublin is to lock down the show completely and try not to let in goals.

"But people didn't want to see that and players didn't want to see that; they felt we could have a go at them but we were outclassed."

For context, Westmeath lost by 13 and 15 points respectively in the last two Leinster finals.

By Cribbin's estimation, Dublin were "on a par," yesterday with their own performance levels from those games so he openly admitted "our approach was the difference in the scoreline."


In those two seasons, Westmeath operated with two sweepers but yesterday, they deployed just one, Mark McCallan.

"And to be honest, I probably knew in my heart and soul before the game, we needed to get a minimum of 11 guys back, play the zonal defence and two sweepers but unless you have machines that can get up and down the pitch, you are not going to beat them.

"You might hold them back, might keep the score down, might keep huge scorelines going up against you by doing that but I don't think anyone in Westmeath would have liked to have seen that again for the third year in a row and the players didn't want it.

"They wanted to have a go."

If he wasn't convinced beforehand, Cribbin was hardly taken with this more adventurous modus operandi as the Dublin forwards luxuriated in the space between Westmeath's goal and their '65 early on, taking all of 20 minutes before they were put under enough defensive pressure to kick a wide.

Eoghan O'Gara's and Kevin McManamon's quest to impress the Dublin management that started them as substitutes yesterday and hence, their two late goals meant the day turned into an annihilation.

It seemed pertinent then, to ask Cribbin what he would do if by some sadistic twist of fate, he had to take on Dublin again next week.

To be fair to the Westmeath manager, he was honest in his answer.

"I would lock up shop," he confirmed.

"You would have to play with two sweepers. I wouldn't take them on without two sweepers.

"A good friend of mine, Turlough O'Brien with Carlow, he took all my stuff before he played them for the last two years and I said they can't be played without two sweepers.

"You might ask why didn't you go that way today, because the lads wanted to have a go. We felt that we were ready to have a go.

"We didn't go out to lose the game, we wanted to go and see where we are, can we match them, can we go again?"

All of which did nothing for the image of the Leinster Championship, a competition that struggles for...well, competition.

Kildare look like they could make this year's provincial final a more interesting occasion than recent instalments but Cribbin reckoned the avoidance of a disaster such as yesterday was worth Westmeath sacrificing a spot in the All-Ireland senior football Championship.

"Yeah, I definitely feel the Championship should be restructured," he stressed.

"People say weaker counties don't want to play in another competition, I think the winner, if there was a second tier competition, I think the winners should be at some stage introduced that year to the senior competition.


"That would give 16 counties an unbelievable bonus to get on the big stage, would have won a lot of games in the Championship and helped them get there.

"Because the jump from playing at a certain level and standard and then you meet a team like Dublin or Tyrone or Kerry, it's a massive, massive jump."

As for the players who had suffered so brutally at Dublin's hands, Cribbin revealed they were "disappointed, they're embarrassed.

"They're embarrassed but, at the same time, they knew that they wanted to have a go and see where we're at so the next few weeks will tell whether we're going to feel sorry for ourselves or whether we're going to get up and do something about it and try and get a bit of pride back into our jersey.

"That's all we can do."

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