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Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.

Tom Cribbin: ‘It was crucial for us to win promotion’

By Cian O’Connell

“It is great, any day you can get up to Croke Park is a fabulous achievement,” Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin remarks about Saturday’s Allianz Football League Division Four Final against Wexford.

Cribbin, one of the most engaging figures in the inter-county game, has enjoyed a productive stint in charge of the midlanders. Two Leinster SFC Final appearances in a row confirms Westmeath potential, but they have suffered in the League in recent years.

Three relegations on the spin ensured Westmeath commenced the current campaign in the bottom tier, but Cribbin’s team realised their spring objective.

“We were tight with the panel last year and we picked up a lot of injuries during the League,” Cribbin says.

“We had to send lads for operations and we still thought we would stay in Division Three, but we got it wrong. We ended up going down because we probably underestimated one or two teams.

“So it was crucial for us that we got back out of it this year to win promotion because if you don't get straight back out of Division Four it can become a dogfight and very difficult to get out of that Division.

“The lads are really looking forward to it, they've had a few good days there in the last two years, we are really looking forward to Saturday now.”

Keen to ensure his panel was fresh for the challenges ahead Cribbin and his selectors opted not to rush several players back into action with Westmeath.  “A lot of players didn't finish football until the end of October. A lot of the senior lads, who are on the road six or seven years, they just needed a break.

“A lot of them didn't come back until mid December and the rest came back after Christmas. I think the only difference was their sharpness, they were back playing good football, they were strong, but towards the end of the League we just got better and better because we were playing consistently with guys in the same positions.

“We just seemed to find a format that worked really well for us. A couple of them then, Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Ger Egan, Paul Sharry, a lot of lads just playing really good football. Then we found a few new lads that have made the competition for places really tough.

“Guys like Alan Stone, Tommy McDaniels, Mark McCallon is back in there, so we have great competition for places. Maybe that is what has driven us on to a good level.”

Cribbin admits that Westmeath have more options to select from now compared to previous years. “There definitely is more depth, we have Dennis Glennon back as well, there is just a lot of positives this year.

“John Connellan was out with a four or five month injury, he is back now flying and fighting for a position. Shane Dempsey, lads like that with Championship experience, Callum McCormack, fighting hard for positions. It is looking good, we are really looking forward to the Championship ahead.”

Another Offaly and Westmeath clash is on the Leinster Championship agenda. Games between the neighbours are usually tight and tense. “Yeah, it will be no different this year,” Cribbin says.

“Offaly proved their battling qualities over the last number of weeks, they needed to win matches to stay up in Division Three and they duly done so. Their Under 21s got to a Leinster Final and did very well against a very strong Dublin Under 21 team, they acquitted themselves very well.

“All the games between ourselves and Offaly in the last number of years, there has only been a point in it either way.

“We were lucky enough to have home venue for most of those occasions so the next time this summer we are going over to Tullamore so there is probably a slight advantage with Offaly for that game, but there is nothing between the teams.”

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