Westmeath 5-24 Laois 1-18
By Steven Miller at MW Hire O’Moore Park
The Westmeath hurlers will play in the Leinster Championship again in 2023 after a comfortable win over Laois in O’Moore Park.
Four second-half goals brought the curtain down on their positive championship campaign and saw them ease to an 18-point win.
But for Laois it was the latest blow in what has been a gruelling season and they’ll play in the Joe McDonagh next year unless Kerry win this year’s competition.
The game was essentially a relegation play-off but Westmeath had been motoring better all year than Laois and were comfortable winners here.
Having secured a famous draw with Wexford last week, Westmeath were fastest out of the traps with three points in the opening three minutes here, Niall Price, Joey Doyle and Killian Doyle all on target.
But Laois had the wind at their backs and they hit five of the next six points thanks to Cha Dwyer, Paddy Purcell, Ross King, Enda Rowland (free) and James Keyes to take the lead, Westmeath’s only response coming from Doyle.
That nudged Laois ahead and while Joey Boyle and Cormac Boyle pointed either side of another massive Enda Rowland free, Laois then got scores from Ben Conroy and corner-back Padraic Dunne to be 0-8 to 0-6 up at the 20-minute mark.
Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher missed a great goal chance to extend Laois’s lead to five when Noel Conaty pulled off a fine save and though Ross King tapped over a free, the game then took a turn in Westmeath’s favour.
Eoin Keyes did brilliantly to come in along the endline and finish smartly from close range while Keyes, Doyle and Joey Boyle all pointed to have Westmeath 1-9 to 0-9 in the lead after 30 minutes.
Yet Laois were back level when Ross King picked out Paddy Purcell with a lovely pass and his Rathdowney-Errill club-mate made no mistake to goal. Rowland landed his third free to put Laois in front once more but Jack Galvin and Killian Doyle (twice) replied for Westmeath.
James Keyes got the last score of the half with a point but at the break Westmeath led 1-12 to 1-11.
Laois played into the wind in the second half but had the better of the opening 10 minutes with Rowland, two from King and Conroy all finding the range.
Doyle and Niall O’Brien kept Westmeath within reach and Niall Mitchell’s brilliant goal in the 45th minute was a big moment.
There was only two points in it at that stage but the floodgates opened thereafter. Niall O’Brien, Mitchell and Eoin Keyes got further goals and by the end there were a massive 18 points between the sides.
For Westmeath it rounds off a relatively positive season. They finish on three points in the Leinster championship and will play at this level again in 2023. They’ll also play in Division 1 of the league having won Division 2.
Scorers for Westmeath: Killian Doyle 0-7 (four frees), Eoin Keyes 2-1, Niall O’Brien 1-3, Niall Mitchell 2-0 Joey Boyle 0-5, Davy Glennon 0-3, Jack Galvin 0-2, Aaron Craig 0-1, Jack Gillen 0-1, Cormac Boyle 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: Ross King 0-6 (two frees, one ‘65), Paddy Purcell 1-1, Enda Rowland 0-4 (frees), James Keyes 0-3, Ben Conroy 0-2, Cha Dwyer 0-1, Padraic Dunne 0-1.
WESTMEATH: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Aonghus Clarke, Jack Galvin; Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville; Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle, Niall Mitchell; Niall O’Brien, Eoin Keyes, Davy Glennon.
Subs: Derek McNicholas for O’Brien (57), Kevin Regan for C Boyle (61), Shane McGovern for Greville (66), Jack Gillen for Keyes (67), Alan Cox for Glennon (70).
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Padraic Dunne, Sean Downey, Donnchadh Hartnett; Ryan Mullaney, Liam O’Connell, Ciaran McEvoy; Jack Kelly, Paddy Purcell; James Keyes, Cha Dwyer, Ben Conroy; Stephen Maher, Ross King, Fiachra-C Fennell.
Subs: Aidan Corby for Dunne (HT), PJ Scully for Maher (54), Tomas Keyes for Kelly (54), Willie Dunphy for Conroy (56), Eric Killeen for Mullaney (57).
REFEREE: Colum Cunning (Antrim)