Rosemount’s Vinny Cox who queried when Westmeath GAA will have its own centre of excellence at last week’s meeting.

Mescall dismisses claims that lack of facilities is holding Westmeath back

Westmeath GAA chairman Frank Mescall has dismissed suggestions that the lack of a centre of excellence contributed to Westmeath’s poor second-half display against Louth in this year’s Leinster championship.

The matter arose at last week’s Westmeath County Committee meeting in the Mullingar Park Hotel.

Westmeath lost an eight-point lead in Navan and exited the Leinster campaign earlier than they would have liked, whereas Louth went on to contest a Leinster final. It was learned at the meeting that Westmeath will have no pitches of their own for county teams until 2025 at the earliest. Rosemount’s Vinny Cox felt, from speaking to panel members, not having a place to train is a huge drawback for a team at senior level. Proper grass pitches and facilities are vital, he observed.

“That’s a huge (factor). It’s easy to look and criticise,” he added, querying what stage Westmeath are at in terms of having their own centre of excellence.

Mr Mescall felt pointing to a lack of facilities is looking for excuses.

“It’s very seldom they didn’t have a grass pitch to train on. AIT (now TUS) have been really accommodating, for the footballers in particular, and St Loman’s, Mullingar and Kinnegad. They are the three prime homes,” he said, highlighting the support Westmeath’s hurlers received from the Lough Lene Gael club.

“With our hurlers, Lough Lene Gaels did something for our hurlers that I don’t think too many would have done. We have a good arrangement with them, an agreement with them,” he said.

“But that’s my initial reaction: to answer your question (on a centre of excellence), I was asked about it at the last meeting - there is a bit of work being done on it, but there’s nothing definite yet.

“It is our hope and vision that we will have our own home and there is work being done for that, but nothing definite on that. And it certainly won’t be here for next year’s championship. Maybe, for 2025, there will be one or two pitches playable by then, hopefully.”

Football Committee chairman, Michael Mannion acknowledged a poor performance by the senior footballers in the defeat by Louth.

“To be so far up at half-time (1-9 to 0-4) and lose in the second half … it was a pity to go out of the championship so easily,” he remarked.

Westmeath begin the All-Ireland series (Sam Maguire Cup) on Saturday with an away game against Armagh. They play Galway in the second round on June 3/4 (TEG Cusack Park), while Tyrone provide the opposition for the final game of the series (neutral venue).

Joe Malone (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge) was critical of the manner in which Westmeath lost a big lead against Louth and felt inexperience played a part.

“We shouldn’t have lost that game. I don’t know what went wrong; we should have just shored up. We were getting outwitted by Mickey Harte, who brought the goalie into play out at midfield and we should have had some way to counter that. He came out for every kick-out.”

Frank Mescall admitted it was disappointing. “If we, or anybody knew what went wrong, it would be easy to solve it. But I don’t think anybody knows what exactly went wrong in the second half. It was a unique game of two halves,” he said.

“We have got a very tough draw but we are still in it. We have three very tough games coming up. But I think, if they throw off the shackles a little bit and just go and play, we have a chance.”

It was also stated that the start dates of the Westmeath club championships will depend on how the county team fares in the new group stages format.