Westmeath senior hurling manager Brian Hanley described himself as "gutted" after his side’s six-point loss to Laois in their second game of the Leinster SHC mini-group.
“I’m gutted to be honest because that’s one we should have won,” he said after last Sunday's game at Cusack Park.
“I’m three-and-a-half years here and it’s not often you come in you have to question yourself, and question everything. That’s a game we should have won. It’s awful disappointing," continued Hanley.
"Laois obliterated us in the Division 2A league final last year in what was the best performance against Westmeath in my time here. I don’t want to be disrespectful to Laois in any shape or form, but we should have won that game today. We had the chances, even when we fell behind. We are not getting that reward for all the work we are putting in.
“They are great young lads and they will come good. Their efforts and endeavours can only be credited there today. But we have to look at ourselves and see why we didn’t win the game. Our decision-making was poor by times, but listen I’ve been there and I’ve made wrong decisions in club games that I’ve never forgotten. Everyone does that in the heat of the moment. I have one hundred per cent belief in these young lads.”
After a poor league campaign, Hanley came under a lot of pressure in the Lake County, but he remains upbeat: “We hadn’t a good league campaign, and from the media side of it you’d think we were doing nothing since October. A former player had a go at us. It’s awful disheartening for these young lads.”
Returning to the defeat by Laois, the Athenry man reflected: “We lost Aaron Craig at centre-back and had to put Eoin Price, a fabulous hurler, in there. We lost his enthusiasm and ideas in midfield. Philip Gilsenan was outstanding when he went in centre-back. Everybody has to learn from this, come back, and go again. The day you win you learn, but the day you lose you learn more.”
This was a match when perhaps experience was required in some sectors of the pitch, but when ‘missing’ Westmeath players were alluded to, Hanley concentrated on those “who are here and have done their training”.
He continued: “It’s the culture. There’s a lot more than just turning up and playing a game today. I’ve gone and watched other counties. The back-up these lads are getting from the county board – there’s no stone left unturned. Our fitness levels are very good and credit to Peter Leahy for that.
“We had eight minors here on Friday night as part of a 15-a-side game and when I blew the final whistle I said, ‘some day in this county, when the belief is there, Westmeath will make massive strides’. It disheartens me when I see these lads getting grief for what they haven’t achieved this year. Today was a credible performance.
"Given what happened in the league final last year, it’s strange and surreal to be here today talking that we should have won that game today without the so-called players that are better than we have this year. We could have won in Antrim last week, but we were never going to win it. But today was gut-wrenching.”
Westmeath have a bye in the five-team round robin series this weekend and Hanley confessed that he was delighted with the rest.
“We need that week’s break now, but we’ll pick ourselves up for the Carlow game. Hopefully after that game we’ll be talking about a better second-half display,” he added.