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Players made 'an error of judgment' with tweets - Flanagan

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 7th March, 2012 5:30pm

Pat Flanagan put aside a controversy about Twitter-based criticism of his performance as Westmeath senior football manager in the best possible way - by leading his charges to victory against Galway last Sunday.

The under-fire Clara man was in the pages of the national press last weekend, after a number of current and former Westmeath players appeared to lash out at his management style on the social networking platform.

The controversial 'tweets' cited in Saturday's Irish Examiner were posted by former panellists Denis Corroon, Tommy McDaniel and Conor Lynam, as well as current panellists Tommy Warburton and John Egan, as they conversed with each other over county football matters.

"I was aware of the article since Friday to be honest. There are two guys involved in the panel. They are only new guys and they have made a serious error of judgment," Flanagan said after Westmeath's 0-14 to 0-13 win over Galway.

"Both of them have apologised to everybody involved, players and backroom team. A lot of the senior players were very disappointed with what's going on, but two guys got caught up in something that they shouldn't have got caught up in. They don't realise that when they put their name to something at this level it is going to be all over the place. They will learn from it, hopefully, and it won't happen again. "I just want to emphasise too the fact that Denis Corroon rang me from America yesterday (Saturday) giving me his part of the story. I think he was misquoted and I would accept totally what Denis said to me.

"Denis is a very sound fella and I'd have huge respect for him. He is missing terribly from the Westmeath set-up and it shows the true character of the man to contact me. He was very disappointed with the things that came out in the paper.

"The players are working exceptionally hard. We don't need negativity. We need time. We need patience. We can do it. We can make it happen. There are nine U21s on the senior panel. We have all the Garrycastle lads to come back and we wish them extremely well on St Patrick's Day. I think this county needs a bit of positivity, not negativity. The players certainly need positivity."

Meanwhile, Westmeath goalkeeper Gary Connaughton also said the Twitter episode has been put to bed.

"A couple of lads got involved and they've apologised. We had a few words with them. The GPA (Gaelic Players Association) are excellent about this. The social media thing is very delicate. The two lads were inexperienced. We're moving on from it. It's over with now. Lads either want to play with their county or they don't. You saw a good reaction there today," said the Tubberclair man, who was part of the Leinster squad which recently took part in the interprovincial championship.

Flanagan also called for patience from supporters in the aftermath of last Sunday's morale-boosting win over Galway.

"I think the future is very good for Westmeath once everybody has a little bit of patience and a bit of belief. We need to get rid of all this negativity. Okay, we'll take criticism over the Meath match, we deserved it. But, certainly we were working very, very hard on the training field and today we got our reward on the field of play," he said.

The teams were level at half-time despite the visitors having played with a strong wind in the first half. "We had put a fair effort into the first half and we didn't want to go into a shell of dropping back too far. We did that against Meath and we suffered big-time. We worked the last two weeks on keeping our shape and keeping our forwards in place," said Flanagan.

"I can't say enough about the players. They've taken a lot of stick. They're great lads but they weren't bringing what they were doing in training onto the pitch until today.

"We didn't deserve to be two points down with a couple of minutes to play, so to get three points in the last five minutes was absolutely brilliant. In the end it was great that Denis (Glennon) did pop his goal chance over the bar."

The swapping of Michael Ennis and Paul Sharry prior to the throw-in raised some eyebrows, but the bainisteoir felt the switch worked very well.

"We moved Michael to give a bit of guile to the younger fellas in attack as he has this tendency to drive forward one way or the other. Paul Sharry was excellent in his first game at centre-back."

When asked about Gary Connaughton's crucial acrobatic save in the 29th minute, his manager replied: "Gary only decided that he was fit to play about five minutes before the start due to a back injury. If any young player in Westmeath needs to look to anybody for inspiration, they should look to Gary Connaughton."

Connaughton, meanwhile, when asked about his outstanding save from Danny Cummins, gave a humorous and frank opinion.

"There is a lot of talk about goal-line technology in soccer and Gaelic games, but I am glad there is none in Cusack Park, as I honestly thought the ball could have been just over the line! Cummins thought it was a goal too, but you just have to throw your body at it and do your best to keep it out," the Westmeath skipper said.

"Lads put their bodies on the line today and showed leadership. But there's no point in having just one good game in the league, we have to build on it. We have tough games coming up, but we've games that we're well capable of winning if we have the proper attitude. There have been many days in recent years with my club and county when things have not gone well, so we'll savour this victory today," added the 2008 All-Star.