On the rise

Preparing for Offaly, new manager's attention to detail and the enjoyment factor

Westmeath’s Kieran Martin is in an optimistic mood ahead of their league opener this weekend.

AS THE WESTMEATH team bus approached Parnell Park last Friday night, it was enveloped in flashing blue lights from the Gardai that accompanied it. 

Fans arrive to Parnell Park Fans arrive to Parnell Park last Friday night. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

New Westmeath manager Jack Cooney had his O’Byrne Cup preparations down to a tee, including arranging a Garda escort to account for any potential traffic problems on the way to the game at the Donnycarney venue. 

It’s his attention to detail that has endeared Westmeath’s first native manager in 26 years to his players in the early stages of his reign. 

“A few of the lads didn’t even know what was going on and they were just seeing blue lights everywhere!” remarked experienced forward Kieran Martin.

But little things like that make a difference. It makes you feel important and that’s what you want. 

“To be honest this has been probably one of the most enjoyable years we’ve had. It is tough, they are down to a tee with everything.

“Jack is a Westmeath man and from facing the lads as a club manager, he knows what they are like and he can see the full potential in them. Hopefully the next few weeks are as enjoyable as the last few. 

“You want a lot of confidence coming into these games, especially with the young lads. Coming in lads are bouncing on their feet and mad to get out, and that’s totally from the backroom team.

“They can see the potential in us, and they are pushing us to the limit for every training session and every day and we are not training, that we have to do our own bit. In fairness, the lads are pulling in behind them and pulling with it.”

Kieran Martin Westmeath forward Kieran Martin. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The victory over Dublin rounded off an impressive pre-season campaign for the Lake County, who scored 4-58 on their five-game run to the title.

A number of youngsters put their hands up for selection over the past month as Cooney mixed veterans with rookies.

“The young lads coming in have been very impressive,” said Martin. 

Young Noel O’Reilly there has been knocking on the door the last few years on the panel and he has been exceptional this year in the O’Byrne Cup.

“It’s the likes of them driving everyone on, and we have a few of the U20s in just training with us as well, they have huge ability and they are putting in the work.

“That’s encouraging us to work a bit harder because when we see they are putting in the work, we have to lead by example so in fairness the lads have a good backroom and they are pushing us as hard as they can.

That makes it very enjoyable and makes it easy to go to training and put the effort in.”

On Sunday, Westmeath open their Division 3 campaign against Offaly, who are the only side Cooney’s men failed to beat in their O’Byrne Cup group stage meeting.

That Group 1 meeting finished level at 0-11 apiece, but both teams will have vastly stronger teams out for the league opener on Sunday. 

“We have a big test now in the next few weeks,” he explained. 

“It was a good performance on the night (against Dublin). Coming into it we were focussed on winning something when we got the chance but at the same time we can’t get too carried away with it.

“We have Offaly at the weekend so we have to get together and focus on that,” Martin added. “But you can’t beat the competitive games to bring you along too.

“That’s ten times better than any training session so it was nice to get the performance. Can we improve? Yes, we can but it’s great to get the win in the end.”

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