Westmeath’s debut in the new U20 football grade resulted in a hard-earned Leinster championship round robin win against Wexford in TEG Cusack Park on Monday night last, after which the Lake County manager Damien Gavin had mixed views about his side’s display.
The St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge man opined at the outset: “A three-point win is a good start, but we were 11 points up at one stage. So to let that lead slip is not great, but that gives us something to work on for the next day.
“We played very well in the first half, but in the second half - as can happen in underage football - momentum turned against us. But we stuck at it to the very end and there’s great fight in that team.
“There was a lack of concentration in the second half. It can happen with younger players, but it shouldn’t happen to that extent. Wexford took over around midfield and won a lot of breaking ball.
“When we did win some ball, maybe we gave it away too cheaply. But the fighting spirit was good. It is vital in championship football, and to hold on was impressive.”
Wexford were awarded two penalties for foot block offences in the game (only one of which was converted) and Gavin was asked if he agreed with the referee’s decisions. He responded thus: “I thought the second one was harsh. Joe Moran had his back turned to the man and he appeared to be running away from the ball, and the Wexford guy kind of kicked it against him.
“Those things happen in games. The first one, fair enough, it’s one of those that can go either way.”
Finbar Coyne was widely expected to be one of the stars of this U20 campaign, but his role as a sub in the previous Saturday’s senior championship defeat by Laois made him ineligible. In this regard, Gavin stated: “Finbar is a great fellow and it’s a very difficult one. In an ideal situation, he wouldn’t have come on last Saturday. But he was with the senior panel all year. He wanted to play U20, but circumstances changed.
“There is no malice in it. He is a fantastic fellow. He is very disappointed himself and we’d love to have him here.”
With Dublin football very much at the top of the pile in recent years, a second round robin fixture in Parnell Park seemed daunting, but the 1995 All-Ireland-winning minor captain was bullish about the trip. He concluded: “Really and truly, I am trying to drive into players that it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, we’re only in control of what we are in control of.
“If you worry about the opposition before you go out, there is no point in taking the field. It’s a mindset that slips into counties that aren’t as successful, and it’s something that I will definitely be trying to change.”