Denis Glennon believes that Westmeath now have the mentality to beat Dublin

County look to Paralympian Mark Rohan for inspiration in Leinster SFC clash


Westmeath will require more than a slingshot at Croke Park on Saturday night. Dublin cast a long shadow in winning the National League, new manager Jim Gavin adding impressive layers to the outright victory in terms of introducing fresh-faced personnel and playing patterns.

Promotion from Division Two – they lost the final to Derry – underlines Westmeath’s bona fides, which they will present this weekend. The campaign was good for morale, injecting confidence, but it must survive a rigorous examination this weekend.

Teams in every sport explore lateral thinking in the pursuit of an edge. Westmeath are no different. Denis Glennon, one of the survivors from the side that beat Dublin in 2004, explained that the county team has invited double gold medal winner at the 2012 Paralympics Mark Rohan to speak to the players.

“Mark’s been involved the last two weeks particularly, and the passion he’s bringing there – you can see the drive on him. He knows what it takes to be successful, and he’s trying to influence everyone including the older players to get the attitude right; that we shouldn’t fear anyone and that we need to have a serious belief that we can beat these boys and go out and perform to the best our ability on the day.

National stage
“And if that’s not good enough, it’s not good enough – but if it is, we could win the game. You see how successful he is on a national stage.But when you hear someone like that speaking, you’re obviously going to listen. It’s mental more so than anything. We have a very good physical coach, but it’s the mentality (of winning). He tries to instil in us that 80 per cent is mental and 20 per cent is just the physical aspect of the game.

“And you saw a good example at the weekend where Tipperary probably didn’t believe they could beat Kerry, they were steamrolled off the field. So we can’t go out with that attitude that we’re going to be steamrolled off the field; we have to have an attitude that we can actually beat Dublin, as daunting as it is. And I think if we do have that attitude, we mightn’t be too far away.”

“It’s a far more open pitch and they have a bigger crowd there supporting them, so it is very daunting. But at the same time it’s a challenge that we look forward to, and I suppose it’s one of the reasons we do play Gaelic football.”

Glennon believes that there is a spirit, borne out by results in the league that emphasises the progress they have made this year compared with recent seasons. “There’s a huge difference. I suppose the biggest thing is belief. There’s a serious belief in the team that we can actually win games, whereas the last couple of seasons you could say we’ve been going into games and we weren’t sure what the outcome was going to be.

“We were missing players through colleges and this, that and the other. But I think this year we’ve had everyone from get-go. We’ve worked hard, we’ve built on every game and when we started getting the wins, we started to get the belief and I think that’s the biggest difference this year.”

Glennon is unequivocal about the advantage that the Dubs enjoy in playing the majority of their matches at Croke Park.

“They’ve played six or seven games there already. We’ve only played the league final here. And I’ve often said, if we got them outside of Croke Park, we’d beat them. And I know the last couple of times we did play them outside, we beat them.

“But it’s a different kettle of fish when you’re playing them out there. It’s a far more open pitch and they have a bigger crowd there supporting them, so it is very daunting. But at the same time it’s a challenge that we look forward to, and I suppose it’s one of the reasons we do play Gaelic football – to play out in front of 60-odd or 40-odd thousand people.

“It is a huge advantage (for Dublin). They know that pitch like we do Cusack Park, like the back of our hand. Where to shoot from, where not to shoot from, and that is a huge advantage. As well as that, kicking into the Hill can be daunting, especially for younger players. They don’t know what to expect and it’s nerve-wracking.”

So can Westmeath beat Dublin? “Yes, I think we can. For the simple reason, it goes back to the mentality, if I tell you we can’t then we won’t. We have to go in with a positive attitude. There’s no refuting that Dublin are, if not the best team in the country, they’re definitely a top three team whereas we would be considered probably top 15 if we’re lucky.

“At the same time it’s 15 against 15 and once you go out onto that field you’re against 15 players. You’re not against the county of Dublin, you’re against 15 players.

“You have to believe that if you can win your individual battle on the day and you have to have faith in the rest of your team that they can win their individual battle that anything is possible.”