Westmeath football supporters will be hoping for better when Offaly roll into TEG Cusack Park for tomorrow’s Leinster SFC replay.
The verdict from Bord na Mona O’Connor Park last Sunday, where the sides drew 0-10 each after a turgid 70 minutes, was that with the attacking talent available both on the field and on the bench, the Lake County could have and should have done much better.
“Westmeath, in my opinion, are better when playing attacking football so please, when the analysis of Sunday’s game is done, go back to that style as the stuff on Sunday was hard to stomach,” Westmeath GAA PRO Aidan Walsh wrote in his jottings column last week.
“Apologies in advance if these thoughts offend anyone, but Westmeath have plenty of very talented footballers so why not utilise the talents to their best potential. Is that a forlorn hope? I certainly hope not.”
These sentiments were echoed in pubs, cafés and offices in Westmeath throughout the week, with football aficionados – remembering the manner in which Westmeath ruthlessly dismantled Wexford in the Division 4 final – left frustrated by a cautious display characterised by hand-passing and the blanket defence.
Speaking after last Sunday’s game in Tullamore, Lake County skipper Ger Egan promised a very different type of encounter in Saturday's replay (2pm throw-in).
“I guarantee you, it will be more free-flowing next weekend because we got a game under our belts, both teams got to feel each other out and show their weaknesses and strengths,” said the Tyrrellspass clubman.
Egan hinted here that the long break after the league final played a part – but nerves were also a big factor ahead of what is always a tense battle between local rivals.
“You could see a nervous energy in the dressing room before the game. Even though you think you’re dealing with that and everybody is up for it, in a derby game you just get that, full stop,” he said.
“There’s a lot at stake for all the people along the borders and it probably means more to them than any other game in the championship.
“It means an awful lot to Offaly people and Westmeath people. In the end we just battled it out.
“Having that extra man or two in the last couple of minutes probably gave us that edge to get a draw match out of it.”