Published: Wednesday, 12th October, 2011 5:30pm
Westmeath's success in last Sunday's All-Ireland final replay was down to "heart and determination", according to attacking ace Laura Walsh.
"We were never going to lie down. It didn't matter if we were 15 points down, we were always going to try to turn it around," said the Glasson native after her side's spirited comeback edged out Cavan.
"We were true to ourselves out there today. Right to the final whistle, we didn't die and that's what won it for us in the end, our character," added the former Garrycastle player, who now plays with Na Fianna (Dublin).
Despite some wayward free-taking and missed chances from open play, Westmeath refused to wilt in their bid for glory.
"I think the experience of the last day really stood to us. We had faith that we were creating the chances and they would eventually go over," said Laura. "Cavan's goal went in at a crucial time and really it could have buried us. We just plugged away and concentrated on the next ball and we got a penalty not long after that. It was all about sticking to the game-plan and knowing what we can do."
Even when player of the match Maud Annie Foley missed a free late on, Westmeath didn't lose their focus. "I think if this was a Westmeath team of old, there would have been people giving out to each other," Laura remarked. "When Maud missed that free, a couple of girls went straight over (to her) and said 'keep the head up, we'll get the next one' and that's what you have to do ... there's no point turning on each other."
Westmeath's all-important goal was scored from the penalty spot by Laura Brennan, but in the move which to the penalty, Walsh actually finished the ball to the net after the whistle had been blown. Naturally, Laura feared that Westmeath would rue the referee's decision not to play advantage on that occasion.
"I was ready to put the jersey over my head and run for the corner flag like Wayne Rooney! I was devastated (when the goal wasn't awarded), but at least Laura (Brennan) got on the scoresheet. We've been taking penalty shoot-outs in training all year and my money has always been on Laura Brennan. She's some woman to put away a penalty and she was as cool as a cucumber when it came to it."
Walsh felt the Cavan players were fouling their Westmeath opponents far out in order to avoid conceding goals. "They were very clever in where they were fouling us. It must have been the instruction not to let us get a run on goal in any circumstances. Fair play to the ref, he spotted the continuous fouling and he punished them in the end (with the yellow cards)."
With Westmeath now moving up to the senior championship next year, Laura admitted it will be "massive" step-up in class but added that "it's where you want to be".
"There's a hell of lot of work to be done to get ready for senior standard. But all year long, we've put in the work and we'll do it again in November/December," she said.
Laura said that Westmeath ladies football at underage level "is in a very healthy state" at the moment, adding that the county needs "a stream of players coming through" to the senior panel.