Westmeath U20 manager Damien Gavin during the Westmeath v Limerick, EirGrid All-Ireland U20 ‘B’ Football Championship semi-final at FBD Semple Stadium, Thurles, County Tipperary. Photo: Gerry Shanahan

Manager Gavin ‘delighted’ to reach All-Ireland ‘B’ final

By Gerry Buckley

“A win is a win, whether it’s an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. We’re delighted to be there. We don’t get to too many All-Ireland finals as a county.”

So said Damien Gavin, the manager of the Westmeath U20 footballers, himself an All-Ireland-winning minor captain, in 1995, after his charges had defeated Limerick last Saturday afternoon in glorious conditions in Thurles. They are now looking forward to the All-Ireland 'B' final against Down on Saturday in Navan.

“We’d love to be in the ‘A’ final and that was our aim at the start of the year, but to be fair to the lads, they turned their attention to the ‘B’ after we lost to Meath, and we said we’d give it a right rattle," remarked Gavin.

“We have three wins now and great momentum. We’re playing a lot better now, and certainly in the second half today we played an awful lot better. Kicking 1-15 is great scoring. They got through a few times in the first half, but we addressed that at half-time. We have loads of pace in the team.”

Brían Cooney had been a little inconsistent in his free-taking in earlier rounds, but the skipper was impeccable in that regard in Semple Stadium.

His manager concurred, stating: “Yes, that keeps the scoreboard ticking over in a tight game. Brían was clearly man-marked after scoring three goals in the last game (against Carlow), but he came into his own from frees today. He really stood up to the task.”

Gavin continued: “Jack Duncan’s goal came at a crucial time (the 49th minute) and it put a bit of distance between us. In the Longford game, they came back and got some late scores. Limerick were trying a force a goal chance late on when we had a good lead.

“Jack’s was an opportunist goal, but was well taken. He picked up a bit of a knock, so hopefully he will be okay for the next day.”

That ‘next day’ is this Saturday in Páirc Tailteann in Navan. Westmeath’s opponents will be a Down team who defeated Mayo in the other semi-final in Cavan on Sunday. Throw-in on Saturday is at 2.15pm.

“Down and Mayo are teams you would have fancied to do well in the ‘A’ and that’s why this is a worthwhile competition,” Gavin says.

“Hopefully, we’ll come out on the right side of the final. U20 is still development with a view to bringing through lads for the senior team, but you still want to be successful in the grade in its own right.

“By winning games, it helps players’ development. The lads have got great confidence from winning these games, particularly in a big stadium like Semple Stadium today, and conditions are better as well. January/February football is completely different from today,” the bainisteoir concluded.