Leinster SFC Quarter-Final Replay: Westmeath 3-17, Offaly 0-15
Three second half goals have sent Westmeath through to the Leinster Senior Football Championship semi-final versus Dublin at Croke Park tomorrow week – as they knocked-out local rivals Offaly for the second year in a row.
Tom Cribbin’s charges – beaten by the Dubs in the last two provincial finals – made a decisive breakthrough in an entertaining game when John Egan fisted to the net in the 54th minute, after forceful build-up play by Paul Sharry and Kieran Martin.
That increased Westmeath’s lead to 1-13 to 0-11 and John Heslin chipped in with his sixth point soon after. Offaly battled gamely and cut the gap in half thanks to Sean Doyle, Nigel Dunne and Peter Cunningham, who registered four points from centre back.
But then Cian Donoghue received a second yellow card and the Faithful County were down to 14 men. Westmeath drove on from that point on and capped off a memorable win with further goals from Heslin and Kieran Martin.
The hosts made two changes to the starting 15, with Alan Gaughan and Callum McCormack coming into the forward line in place Noel Mulligan and Shane Mulligan. And they lost centre back Paddy Holloway with an injury after only five minutes, with Frank Boyle taking his place. Offaly, as expected, had to start without influential midfielder Eoin Carroll, also due to injury.
Westmeath held the upper-hand at half time, enjoying a 0-9 to 0-5 cushion after playing with the aid of a slight breeze in glorious sunshine.
Westmeath led for almost all the opening 35 minutes, with Offaly only briefly on level terms when early points by Callum McCormack and John Heslin were answered by Graham Guilfoyle and free-taker Nigel Dunne.
Westmeath then hit four in a row through Kieran Martin, Frank Boyle and Heslin (2). But Offaly replied with three of the next four points, including excellent efforts from long range by Peter Cunningham and Michael Brazil.
Centre forward Paul Sharry came to the fore for the Lake County in the closing ten minutes of the half, converting two ‘45’s and floating over another from play to give them four points breathing space.
Offaly twice cut their deficit to two points in the second half. After substitute Denis Glennon crashed a shot off the crossbar for Westmeath, Offaly took advantage with points from Cunningham and Dunne (free) to leave it 0-11 to 0-9.
Frank Boyle and Dunne then traded points, as did Kieran Martin and Conor McNamee. It looked set for a grandstand finish, only for Westmeath to make the major breakthrough and ease through with a dominant closing 20 minutes.
Westmeath Scorers: John Heslin (0-2f) 1-6; Kieran Martin 1-2; John Egan 1-0; Paul Sharry (2 ‘45’) 0-3; Frank Boyle 0-2; Ger Egan, Noel Mulligan, Callum McCormack, Tommy McDaniel 0-1 each.
Offaly Scorers: Nigel Dunne (2f) 0-5; Peter Cunningham 0-4; Sean Doyle 0-2; Niall Darby (f), Michael Brazil, Conor McNamee, Graham Guilfoyle 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: Darren Quin; Jamie Gonoud, Kevin Maguire, Killian Daly; Mark McCallon, Paddy Holloway, James Dolan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry, Alan Gaughan; Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Callum McCormack.
Subs: Frank Boyle for Holloway (6 min, inj); Denis Glennon for McCormack (35); John Egan for Reilly (HT); Tommy McDaniel for Glennon (47, inj); David Lynch for Stone; Noel Mulligan for Daly (51 to 53, temp); Noel Mulligan for Gaughan (70).
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Eoin Rigney, Sean Pender; Niall Darby, Peter Cunningham, Cian Donoghue; Conor McNamee, David Hanlon; Nigel Dunne, Johnny Moloney, Michael Brazil; Ruairi Allen, Graham Guilfoyle, Niall McNamee.
Subs: James Lalor for N Darby (HT); Bernard Allen for N McNamee (41); Anton Sullivan for Brazil (47); Joseph O’Connor for Rigney (55); Declan Hogan for Hanlon (70).
Referee: Rory Hickey.