So, with this early season NFL lull about to give way to a helter-skelter four-games-in-four-weeks phase, it’s time to look forward to Sunday’s clash with Westmeath. And how better to do so by (a) looking back at our half-century record against the Lake County and (b) instituting a new poll to test the water, like? (Incidentally, the WTF one following the Donegal match ended with a clear majority – 59% – expressing the view that the performance that day indicated we were having some difficulty in knowing which way was up. I guess the proof of that particular pudding will, to some degree, be demonstrated by how we get on the next day).
Our fifty-year record against Westmeath is one that, unsurprisingly, shows us coming out on top, though not in an unqualified manner. We’ve met eleven times over the period, with our most recent clash taking place in Division 1A of the NFL back in April 2005 when we gave them the mother and father of a hiding and, in doing so, pipped Kerry for a league play-off place on points difference. (Jack O’Connor subsequently put forward Kerry’s failure to reach the play-offs as one of the reasons why they lost the All-Ireland that year so, seen in this light, that made it a very good day’s work by us).
Ten of the eleven clashes we’ve had with Westmeath over the past fifty years have been in the league but the one time we met in the championship is the one that’ll stick in most Mayo supporters’ minds. That was in 2001, the first year that the back door was in operation, and our one-point defeat (after extra-time) to them at Hyde Park, which followed an extremely careless Connacht final defeat to Roscommon at the same venue three weeks earlier, made us the first high-profile casualties (we were, remember, reigning NFL champions at that time) of the new qualifier system.
Our overall half-century record against Westmeath is as follows:
In aggregate terms, we’ve won six, lost four and drawn one against them, scoring a total of 16-105 while conceding 17-91. See what I mean? It hasn’t exactly been one-way traffic, although our home record – four wins and one defeat – is a solid one. We’ve both beaten them (in 1973 which, incredibly, was the most recent time we played them prior to that sole championship meeting in 2001) and lost to them (in 1961, when we were beaten out the gate) at Charlestown.
With six of the eleven clashes between the counties having taken place more than 45 years ago, this isn’t exactly one of our keenest inter-county rivalries. That championship defeat does still rankle though (not to mention the 14-point trimming they handed out to us in Charlestown in 1961), so, along with the two league points that are on offer, we’ve every incentive to do one on them the next day.