Fans might have been bemoaning Aine Tighe’s late wide but Leitrim manager Niall Kilcrann refused to wonder what might have been as he told the Leitrim Observer “We had ample opportunities to win the game before the last kick of the game, it is not down to the last kick of the game.
“Westmeath let us back into the game, we let Westmeath back into the game so by no stretch of the imagination is it down to the last kick of the game. No game ever comes down to the last kick of the ball so we wouldn’t be putting my hopes on that one,” said Niall.
Niall, however, did admit his relief at the final whistle after Westmeath spurned two late chances – “Absolute relief to see two Westmeath forwards two minutes left in the game going forward, two goal opportunities so absolute relief there. We could have won it, Westmeath could have won it and at the end of the day, both teams will be happy to be getting another bite of the cherry.”
Although Niall sees plenty of areas where improvements can be made, the Leitrim manager was more than pleased with his team’s fighting spirit – “That is the one thing about the team, when they are down, they know how to get back up. They clawed back in, when Westmeath went four points up, we stuck at it.
“We could have clinched it at the end, we didn’t but it’ll give the supporters another day out and a chance to see two great teams competing. Whatever team goes out on any day, no matter how much they win by or lose by, they can always improve. No matter if we win every competition that is in front of us this year, National League, Connacht Championship or All-Ireland, they can still improve going into next year.
“Every team can improve, we need to improve obviously, we didn’t win the game here today and we will improve the next day hopefully and we’ll drive on.
“As I said during the week, this has the makings of a great game, a cracking game and it was. The only winners here are the supporters who have another day out to see 30 players taking the field from Leitrim and Westmeath again and going gung-ho at it to win a National League title.
“We took the wind in the first half by choice, we came at it and said we’d attack it. We knew Westmeath were going to come at us, you don’t be in a dressing room at halftime when you are level and think that you’re going to sit back, you have to drive on.
“We didn’t play to our potential in the first half, we weren’t probably tight enough as a unit in the backline. But we had a chat about it at halftime, talked about what we had to do and the girls rose up to the task. We nearly nipped it with the last kick of the game but they nearly nipped in, they were in for a couple of goal chances.”
Westmeath manager Alan Mangan was equally relieved but not too happy about the performance of referee Michael Henry of Westmeath – “Listen, we’re very lucky to get out of here with a draw. I thought Aine would tap that one over there at the end, she normally would, we got out of jail there.
“I thought the referee made a hames of the game. They probably did get two very soft frees but it is not just on our side, I think Leitrim probably feel aggrieved with or three frees that we got as well. But 59 frees in 60 minutes of football is a bit much if you ask me, I don’t know.
“They say it is a non-contact sport but it hasn’t been non-contact since I got involved two years ago and you have to use common sense and let something go. I think it ruined it for the spectators who came here to watch the match, that they didn’t get to see a good flowing game of football that those two teams are able to play.”
Alan agreed his team have areas to work on for the replay – “If you kick balls wide, you either kick them wide through your own fault or Leitrim putting pressure on you.
“I wouldn’t be disappointed as we were lucky in the end that Aine kicked the ball wide but then again, we kicked nine wides in the second half which is a big number for any team. You’d probably give out to U-12s kicking nine wides in one half of football, that is something we can work on for the next day.
“I’m sure Leitrim have a few things they can be working on but the draw is a very fair result at the end of the day. We’ll just work on our shooting, go back to the basics again and maybe getting our fitness up a little bit again this week and getting everything working from that. If we can do that, maybe we can take it but Leitrim are a good side, they are well drilled, Niall has them going well and it is anybody’s game the next day.”
Leitrim captain Mairead Stenson was already turning her thought to the next day – “We made hard work of ourselves in the first few minutes but we upped our game and at least we are not out of it. We have another day to fight so hopefully, the next day will be our day.
“We knew Westmeath would never give up, there is a good strong breeze there so we knew they would come back at us. We just have to get out again, do what we normally do and put in a good hard week.”
The Leitrim captain agreed that Leitrim had ridden a fine line in the second half – “If Westmeath had a free-taker like Aine, it could have been a different story. She didn’t seem to be on form today but sure, we won’t complain about that.”