Westmeath manager Colin Kelly has slammed the GAA for the way they treat counties with small playing populations, but insists the Lake County will fight on through the qualifiers regardless.
Kelly’s side were hammered 4-13 to 1-12 by Laois in their Leinster quarter-final at O’Connor Park on Saturday.
They were without a long list of players due to injuries and withdrawals, meaning that Finbar Coyne was first substitute in.
Coyne was due to captain Westmeath’s Under-20s in their Leinster opener against Wexford in Mullingar on Monday, but is now ineligible having played senior championship – a new rule Croke Park introduced before the start of the season to reduce player burn-out.
"When are the GAA going to realise that the smaller counties aren’t resourced to sustain this type of situation?" asked a clearly frustrated Kelly while speaking to RTÉ Sport.
"The rules are set up to allow fellahs to travel, go to America whenever they want, come back and play for their clubs, Under-20s can’t come into a senior set-up because then they’re out of the loop for the Under-20s team – it’s just ridiculous.
"You’re trying to run all this along with the fact that you’re losing player, after player, after player through injuries, work commitments or fellahs having enough of playing inter-county football.
"Unfortunately we are another county who has suffered through that loss of experience."
Westmeath are in the hat for the qualifier draw on Monday morning and despite their recent set-backs, Kelly says the Lake County are ready for the fight.
"You can spend your time thinking about it, or you can spend your time trying to improve the group," he said.
"There’s no doubt about it; in terms of personnel Westmeath have lost a lot of experienced, talented players.
"There are a lot of other counties in the same boat, but we just have to pick it up and do the best we can.
"I can spend my time wondering about who’s not there or concentrating on trying to improve who is there and I’m all for the second. The lads in that dressing room I have are top class.
"We’re like any squad and management – we don’t always agree, but we have each others’ backs. We’ll continue to fight as long as we’re in the competition."
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