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Underage investment needed to challenge Dubs

Former Westmeath manager Tom Cribben believes that Leinster counties need more coaching resources and must invest heavily in underage teams in they are to challenge Dublin’s dominance.

Dublin secured a remarkable seventh successive Leinster title on Sunday with a 2-23 to 1-17 victory over Kildare at Croke Park.

Cribben saw firsthand just how dominant Jim Gavin’s men are in Leinster when his Westmeath team suffered a massive 31 point hammering in the Leinster semi-final.

Westmeath would then go on to lose to Armagh in the qualifiers, a result which prompted Cribben to step down after three years in charge of the county.

Cribben admitted that his decision to go was one that was influenced by frustration at not having closed the gap on Dublin during his time in charge.

Speaking to 2fm’s Game On, he claimed that the Dubs are in a league of their own in Leinster and that more work needs to be done if their stranglehold on the provincial title is to be broken.

“It was a tough decision but I’d known for a while that I would probably leave it after this year,” he said. “I couldn’t see where we could make the in-roads to really trouble Dublin.

“I think Kildare are moving in the right direction to be up there and I think Meath are moving in the right direction.

“I probably felt overall that we weren’t going to really compete at that top level of Championship.

“I don’t think the quality numbers to compete against Dublin [were there]. They are a good team, there is a lot of good players there but I’m not sure there is enough there to be able to compete with Dublin at the moment and for the next few years.

“Unless you’re getting success at underage and bringing players through and doing conditioning work and everything, you’re going to struggle.”

For Cribben the answer to Dublin’s dominance is for other counties to begin to match them in terms of coaching and underage investment.

“I think they [Westmeath] require more full-time coaches,” he said. “They need to develop a centre of excellence as well and an awful lot of emphasis has to be put on underage to try and get underage success because that’s where it all starts.

“If you’re not competing and being successful at underage, then it’s very difficult to suddenly win at senior level.”

Cribben points towards Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan as an example of work being done at underage bearing fruit in the senior ranks.

The Cuala player already has an Under-21 All-Ireland medal in his pocket and announced himself on the senior stage against Kildare with a magnificent 12-point display.

“That’s the difference,” Cribben said. “When they bring young players through when they’re hitting the age of 20 or 21, they’ve already been doing conditioning for four or five years and they’re nearly ready to step straight into the senior.

“Most other counties don’t have that and that’s probably why Dublin won another Leinster title yesterday because they’re doing the work right at the early ages.”

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