Westmeath 3-13 Longford 0-14
By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park
Westmeath have qualified for the Leinster senior football championship semi-final after a convincing win against Longford in miserable conditions for football in front of 2,290 spectators in Mullingar.
Westmeath’s promotion hopes from Allianz Football League Division Three received a major body blow in March with a surprise four-point defeat to their neighbours at the same venue, but Jack Cooney’s men made no mistake on this occasion.
Ironically, Longford started the brighter with points from Daniel Reynolds and Michael Quinn putting them two ahead after six minutes. A lot of the play was cagey and it was 0-3 each at the quarter-hour mark, Longford’s other point coming from Dessie Reynolds (a brother of Daniel), while the home team registered scores from Alex Gardiner and two John Heslin frees.
However, despite surviving two goal-scoring scares in the 21st and 27th minutes when high balls created problems for the home rearguard, Westmeath went on to dominate the rest of the first half, with their half-back line of Jamie Gonoud, Ronan Wallace and Nigel Harte very much on top of their direct opponents. Indeed, Harte had time to join the attack and kick two outstanding points. Gardiner also added a brace to his earlier point.
In the 28th minute, a Westmeath counterattack ended with veteran Ger Egan, returning after a long injury lay-off, being denied by Paddy Colum, but Heslin (who was busy throughout) was on hand to rifle the rebound to the net. A Darren Gallagher free in the 35th minute was his side’s first score in 27 minutes, but Longford still trailed by 1-9 to 0-4 at the interval.
Half-time sub Dylan Farrell kicked Longford’s first wide of the contest in the first minute of the second half, but Ray Connellan soon extended Westmeath’s lead with a well-taken point. The hard-working Gallagher converted a 45th-minute ‘45’ for his side, but in the 49th minute Ronan Toole, on as a temporary sub for Connellan, finished off a great move with a low shot to the net to put Westmeath ahead by 2-11 to 0-5.
To their credit, Longford never threw in the towel and they scored six points without reply between the 50th and 63rd minutes with their subs making a good impression. Connellan kicked a crucial point for the home team to steady their nerves in the 64th minute and it was 2-13 to 0-13 at the end of normal time, with Billy O’Loughlin’s side going all-out at this juncture to try and manufacture a goal. However, it was Westmeath who raised another green flag deep into added-time when Robbie Forde rounded off a great move in which Wallace was very prominent.
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin 1-5 (0-4fs), A Gardiner 0-3, R Forde, R O’Toole 1-0 each, N Harte, R Connellan 0-2 each, L Dolan 0-1
Scorers for Longford: D Gallagher 0-4 (2fs, 1 ‘45’), D Farrell 0-3 (3fs), P Collum (‘45’), M Quinn, K Diffley, Dessie Reynolds, Daniel Reynolds, K McGann, D Doherty 0-1 each
Westmeath: J Daly; J Smith, K Maguire, D Giles; J Gonoud, R Wallace, N Harte; J Lynam, R Connellan; S McCartan, G Egan, D Lynch; L Loughlin, J Heslin, A Gardiner.
Subs: R.O’Toole for Connellan (temp) (44), R O’Toole for Egan (49), L Dolan for Loughlin (60), K Martin for Gardiner (67), R Forde for Lynam (67), C. Drumm for Giles (70 + 2).
Longford: P Collum; P Fox, A Farrell, B O’Farrell; J Moran, M Quinn, I O’Sullivan; K Diffley, D Gallagher; O Kenny, E McCormack, Dessie Reynolds; J Matthews, Daniel Reynolds, M Hughes.
Subs: K McGann for Hughes (31), D Farrell for Kenny (h-t), D Doherty for Matthews (h-t), R Moffett for McCormack (51), C Dooner for Daniel Reynolds (63).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).