Michael Ryan has doubled up this year as Westmeath senior and U21 hurling manager, and the Waterford man had mixed feelings after the latter side lost by a goal to a profligate Dublin side in TEG Cusack Park in their Leinster quarter-final on Wednesday night last.
Ryan opined: “The first half performance was excellent, but we’ve a lot of good hurlers and that’s no surprise. Unfortunately, on the day, things didn’t work out for Niall Mitchell and sometimes that can happen. I thought the two Doyles were excellent.
“Darragh Reilly was excellent at wing back and a lot of our players played really well. But Darragh Egerton was a huge loss to us, as he is a senior player and you can play him in four of five different positions. We got off to a great start and we worked really hard.
“It was a decent performance, but I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t close it out.”
When it was put to him that Westmeath were overly-reliant on the Doyle twins for scores, the losing bainisteoir concurred, as follows: “Yes, it was a worry, but I thought the two of them were excellent from start to finish. They kept the fight up.
“It’s a pity Killian isn’t around for the Joe McDonagh Cup, he’s a big loss to us. You probably need three or four lads scoring to win a match.
“Having said that, other lads mightn’t have been scoring but they were working hard. Sometimes the ball didn’t run for players in our forward line.”
Ryan continued: “Our defence coped reasonably well for a lot of the game and our young goalkeeper (Brian McHugh) was excellent. I felt the conditions were too greasy for short puck-outs, but we didn’t win as much ball in the half forward line in the second half as we would have liked, and we probably didn’t win enough of the breaks.
“Overall, full marks to them for effort, commitment and pride in playing for Westmeath. These were a lovely bunch of lads to work with. They are good players and a lot of them will have good days yet.
“The key factor is that Dublin already had two championship games played. How anyone can up with a system like that is beyond me. But we did put it up to them, and they knew they were in a real game.”
Unsurprisingly, the manager’s main focus is the Joe McDonagh Cup final against Carlow on Sunday fortnight. In this regard, he stated: “There is a huge game coming up on July 1. That is the game we need to win to drive on Westmeath hurling. We have blooded 22 or 23 players.
“Thankfully, we have no injuries and it looks like Cormac Boyle will be back in the fold as well to give us another option. Hopefully, it will be difficult to pick the team and, if we need to throw somebody in during the match, we won’t be throwing in somebody cold but somebody who is tried and tested.
“We’ll take on the challenge and I am confident that those lads will do themselves justice and do Westmeath hurling proud.”