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'You have to look at Dublin, they are probably the best team to grace a football field'

Westmeath are a little older and wiser as they face Dublin again.

Westmeath's Ger Egan in action against Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny in last year's Leinster football final.
Westmeath's Ger Egan in action against Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny in last year's Leinster football final.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

TWELVE MONTHS ON, Westmeath are that little bit older and wiser.

Dublin are no less daunting an opponent to take down in next Sunday’s Leinster decider but at least Westmeath have the experience of last July’s showpiece to draw upon.

And their success over Kildare ensures they will enter this game in a low-key frame of mind in contrast to the wild hysteria after their incredible comeback win over Meath in 2015.

“We have learnt a lot, the Meath game was nearly our Leinster final last year,” remarks Westmeath player Ger Egan.

“Look at the scenes that followed (the) Meath win. We probably didn’t realise how big it was at the time, we thought it was a big thing for the players but around Westmeath, it was unbelievable.

“(It was) hard to stay away from it last year, and nearly everyone was at you, telling you what a good thing it was and it was something that I had never been a part of.

“You have to look at Dublin, they are probably the best team to grace a football field and fair play to them, we went out in the best way that we thought we could win the game.

“And we have no regrets in that regard. But we have to get more of a balance this year, and we will have to go and try and win it the same as last year.”

Westmeath lost out by 13 points last year but looking at their paltry total of 0-6 from that game offers a salient reminder of where they fell down.

“People looked at Fermanagh last year, they got more plaudits because they got more scores and all that,” says Egan.

“It is easier said than done, that balance is hard to get. We have to take a few more chances and commit a few bodies forward.

“The support probably wasn’t up there so what are you meant to do, are you meant to have a shot on goal or give the ball away.

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“We are going to have to get that balance right, we are going to have to go more at the game. But we only had two weeks last year.”

Preparing for the heights of a Leinster final is in stark contrast to the mood that enveloped the Westmeath football camp back on 3 April.

They suffered a two-point loss to Longford that Sunday, a result that consigned them to Division 3 relegation and ensures they will operate in the basement of league football next spring.

It’s been an impressive turnaround since.

“It was a hard moment in that dressing-room after the Longford game, it was,” admits Egan.

“But we regrouped again, and I 100% thought we could get back to a Leinster final, thought we could beat Offaly and the winners of Kildare-Wexford, that was never in question.

“It is all about the championship, we knew that we had the players there and we were injury-free too and that helps, we had a lot of injuries throughout the league.

“League form hasn’t been good enough the last couple of years and that is something we do have to work on, because you do need to play well in the league to be pushing on and competing with better teams.

“Look, it was tough but 100% (I) thought we would get back to a Leinster final.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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