Westmeath’s Shane Allen surges past Kildare’s Jimmy Hyland in Newbridge yesterday. Photo: John McCauley

Cooney ‘delighted with the effort’ despite defeat

While, in truth, Westmeath’s senior footballers never looked like opening 2022 with a competitive win in Newbridge yesterday afternoon, nonetheless team manager Jack Cooney was pleased with the effort shown by his hugely experimental selection, writes Gerry Buckley.

When he spoke to the media after the game, Cooney opined: “Obviously, the Kildare players wanted to impress in the first quarter, and they did. They got a good run on us and they brought a lot of energy to it.

“I thought after the first water break that we started making better decisions. We focused on not giving the ball away. We turned over the ball a bit in the first half, unforced really.

“We just asked the lads to play with a little bit more composure in the second half and I thought, by and large, that we played some really good patches of football. We got scores off some of them and we didn’t get scores off others.

“We probably created more goal chances than Kildare. I feel another 1-2 or 1-3 would have been more reflective of the amount of efforts that we had. So when you consider the amount of fellows who were wearing the Westmeath senior jersey for the first time, we are delighted with the effort and how they applied themselves.”

The Coralstown/Kinnegad man continued: “We are constantly looking to develop players and the best way to develop them is to give them the opportunity in games like these. I have to say that some of them did exceptionally well. Some of them looked very comfortable out there in what was their first time to do it and they’ll be better for it.

“When all the senior lads come back into the fold, the new lads will learn off them as well. That development has to be continuous and you have to give them the opportunities to show that they want to develop.”

When he was asked whether home fans could expect to see more familiar faces in Mullingar next weekend for the visit of Carlow, the bainisteoir responded: “Yeah, we’ll probably look at it like that. A lot of those lads have come in over the last few weeks. A lot of the lads who came in a few weeks before Christmas were rewarded with game time today.

“The first round of the National League (against Wicklow) is only three weeks away and we’ll be focusing on that. The established lads have a bit of training under their belt and we have to get some clever game time for them so that they are not exposed to injury when they take the field (in the league). It was great to see Kieran Martin back today after a horrific injury.”

And just when we all hoped that a Covid-free conversation could be held, Cooney confirmed that Alex Gardiner, whom many were eagerly looking forward to see playing in his selected position of full forward in St Conleth’s Park, had not been used because “he is waiting on a PCR test as he is a close contact”.

The Lake County lads will face up to the Barrowsiders in what is virtually certain to be the hosts’ last game of the O’Byrne Cup campaign in TEG Cusack Park next weekend.