Westmeath manager Frank Browne. Source: Westmeath LGFA Facebook.

Experienced heads crucial for Westmeath, says Browne

Westmeath manager Frank Browne was happy at how his charges overcame pre-match nerves, dug deep and booked their places in the All-Ireland ladies IFC quarter-finals by seeing off Cavan on Sunday.

“Job done. I think we were very nervous. We knew how much was on the line for us. There was a huge amount of emotion because we knew we were a good bunch of people and it was going to come down to this. Losing Sarah Dillon in the warm-up steeled us and we drove on,” he said.

“The first half was very similar to the league, where we had a lot of chances and we didn’t take them. We probably should have been out of sight. We let them back into the game.

“They missed a couple of chances in the second half. They balanced each other out and I think we were the better team. Now it’s onwards and upwards to an All-Ireland quarter-final.”

The Lake County fired 2-10 from play against Cavan, including two breathtaking goals, and Browne was impressed with how Westmeath worked on the offense.

“We were very slick going forward. The two goals came from straight running. The first one involved Ashley Ruane on the wing. We were roaring at her because we know Ashley has the pace and power to take them on on the outside. But it was the timing of Vicky’s run – we saw the same for the second goal – and the offload just in time as well. They were two really good goals,” he reflected.

“When we missed the penalty, we were probably thinking, ‘Oh my God, here we go again’. I said it to Leanne at half time that class is permanent, and while she missed a few, she dominated the game in the second half.

Even if not on the scoresheet, she got on plenty of ball. When it’s frantic in the last four or five minutes, it’s the Leannes and the Karen Hegartys who will carry you through.

“They are the experienced players on the ball who will do the right thing. They will buy a free, they’ll take an injury and they’ll play you down. With experienced players like them and the likes of Fiona Coyle, we had players who were able to see out the game when we got ourselves into that position.”

The Westmeath setup is a blend of experience and youth, and Browne heaped praise on his younger stars, including Caoimhe Kilmurray, who put in an assured shift in midfield for the winners.

“Caoimhe is going to be an All Star. She is phenomenal. What a lot of people don’t see is that Caoimhe is good with both feet. She can kick with both left and right and in the ladies game, that is unusual enough. She has a massive engine and the other thing I love about Caoimhe is that she’s so coachable. If you ask Caoimhe to do a job, she does the job and that’s it. There is no in between.

“We said to her at half time that Cavan’s number five was hurting us on the overlap and on the spin. We asked her to take number five and take her out of the game, and she did. She even got forward herself and started to hurt Cavan as well.”

Kilmurray’s St Loman’s, Mullingar clubmate, the talismanic Lucy McCartan, returned to the Westmeath setup in the recent defeat against Down after a long lay-off through injury, and Browne reckons she will have much to contribute in the forthcoming knockouts.

“The work that Lucy McCartan has done behind the scenes has been absolutely phenomenal. I am delighted for her. She was at every session with us. It is a hard and lonely place to be down in the bottom corner doing your own runs when everybody else is having the craic, but she stuck with it. I’m absolutely delighted for her,” he remarked.

“We got her 15 to 20 minutes the last day against Down. We got her the bones of a half here today, and she is really putting up her hands for a starting place. So are the other forwards, which is a brilliant situation to be in.”

While the identity of Westmeath’s quarter-final opponent [they have been drawn to play Wexford] was not known on Sunday, Browne is confident that whoever draws Westmeath is in for a battle.

“Whoever we have, we have. There will be teams that you would probably like to avoid if you could, like Clare, but there’ll be a lot of teams saying they won’t fancy playing Westmeath after today,” the Mayoman said.