Alan Mangan: 'Westmeath must keep the goals if they are to overcome Laois'
By Mathew Hurley
Former Westmeath footballer Alan Mangan believes that Westmeath’s game against Laois, live on GAAGO at 1:30pm on Sunday, will be a close affair despite the two sides’ contrasting performances in the league.
The Westmeath football legend, now a coach for their hurling side, argues Laois will put up a difficult challenge to Jack Cooney’s men.
‘I’d be expecting a bigger game (from Laois). The one thing with Westmeath and Laois down through the years, there's been some great games.
‘I think the two sides were probably the biggest rivals in Leinster down through the years, especially (in the) last 15 and in between minor, U21 and senior, we've always clashed into latter stages of championship.
‘Laois have the upper hand on Westmeath over the last couple years, but I'm fairly sure that Jack will have these lads primed for Sunday,’ he said.
Despite Westmeath getting relegated from Division 2, the 2004 Leinster Champion thinks that there are some positive signs so far this year.
‘To be honest, I think it was actually a good campaign for Westmeath. They lost by a point to Meath, they only lost by a point to Down and they lost by 4 to Mayo.
‘I think it was a good campaign, unfortunately at the end of it all, they scored 25 points against Cork and ended up getting relegated, conceding 3-22, like they hadn’t conceded a goal in the league at all until then.’
The most pleasing aspect from their campaign was the introduction of young players according to the former forward.
‘All in all, it was a good campaign, a bit of new blood got a bit of experience through the league as well and it's always good to see that.
‘We're sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place, we’re probably a division lower team than division two but the way the league was ran this year, we got caught in that group and ended up coming bottom, but I think we're unfortunate,’ said Mangan.
There has been a lot of discussion about the structure of the championship this week, given the number of one-sided games last weekend.
Mangan has an idea on what to do with the winners of the so-called ‘tier 2 championship.’
‘I don't know whether I would change it or not (the current championship structure), maybe if they ran sort of like the provincial championship early and maybe had a two-tier championship and the winners of the second tier go into a later stage of an All-Ireland Championship, maybe something like that will work.
‘Up until Dublin started dominating, nobody was saying anything about the way it was ran, as it was a good championship. If you were to ask the weaker teams, would they rather play in a B championship and then the winners of that go into an All-Ireland Quarter-Final or something, maybe something like that could be looked at.’
The Lake County conceded 3 second half goals as they lost to Cork last time out, however Mangan believes that they will rectify those wrongs on Sunday.
‘I'm fairly sure after conceding three goals the last day, that Jack has his work done in making sure that we don't concede three goals again.
‘The one thing that Jack will do is he'd be very prepared, and he'll have them on the top of their game but with Donie Kingston, Paul Kingston and Evan O’Carroll, you have lads to have punished us in the past, in terms of getting goals.
‘I think if we can keep the goals out, we’ll win, but it that's the thing you have to make sure that we keep the goals off that scoreboard.’
He thinks Westmeath will eventually come out on the top but would have preferred to have more spectators at the game.
‘It’ll be a close game, there’s never much between these two teams. It’s just unfortunate that you can't have a couple of thousand at the game because there's always a good bit of banter between the two counties and we would have massive respect for Laois.
‘I think personally Westmeath could come out on top here by three or four points.’