The true merits of this facile victory are difficult to gauge, but the Westmeath under 16 footballers produced some lovely passages of play as they recorded their first Fr Manning Cup win of the season, over Laois, at Cusack Park last Wednesday.
By Damien Maher
Ambrose McGowan’s charges took a limited Laois side apart and seven goals ensured a 16-point victory which made up for the disappointment of losing to Longford the previous week. After dominating this game from start to finish, Westmeath now face a crunch game against a strong Sligo side next Wednesday, the result of which will be crucial in terms of determining who qualifies for the final.
The home side established an early four-point lead and when full forward Troy Maher fisted home his first goal on 14 minutes it signalled the end of the contest. Laois, who lost defenders Daniel Wall and Jimmy O’Connor to black cards, offered little resistance and the skilful Ballynacargy man bagged three further majors before the end. Maher’s club mate, Eoin Nally helped himself to a couple of goals and corner forward, Dylan Carroll also found the net in the 59th minute.
At half-time it was 3-6 to 0-3 in the Lake County’s favour and even though Laois managed 1-8 in the second half, their defence remained porous. Sligo will be an altogether tougher proposition for Westmeath who will have to work much harder for their scores.
In contrast to the previous week, conditions were ideal for football and a Dylan Carroll point put Westmeath ahead after four minutes, though it should have been a goal. Daire Hynes doubled their lead with a good score and Eoin Nally notched the third. Westmeath’s dominance continued and Carroll slotted over a free, making it 0-4 to nil.
Laois’ opening score arrived when midfielder, James Phelan shot over from play after 12 minutes and James Connolly narrowed the gap further with a fine point off the left peg. The opening Westmeath goal on 14 minutes followed a nice move involving Conor Dillon, Sean McGrane and Troy Maher, whose initial shot was saved before he fisted home the rebound.
The home side swooped for the second goal seven minuets later: Nally finished off a good move and the goal should have stood, but the referee called play back and awarded Westmeath a penalty which Maher emphatically slotted past the Laois ‘keeper.
Although Dylan Feane pointed for the visitors, Daire Hynes shot over his second score in response. Laois were denied a goal when Peter Kealy’s fine effort came off the upright and deep in injury-time, Nally had the simple task of finishing to the net from close-range. Carroll notched a free and Westmeath led by an impressive 12-point margin at the interval.
Carroll and Connolly exchanged frees on the restart and Luke Attride’s fine point off the turf was further rewards for the O’Moore boys. However, with nine minutes of the half played, Westmeath pounced for their fourth goal: Cathal Mannion’s pass set up Maher, who finished clinically to the net.
Laois found an immediate response when Luke Hand blasted a shot high to the net, but any hint of a turnaround was quickly dismissed as Mannion and Carroll carved an opening for Maher, who neatly shimmied past his opponent and finished smartly to the net.
Laois pulled back a couple of points per Peter Kealy and Connolly, but Nally found the net to make it 6-7 to 1-8 in the 50th minute. A fine point by Kealy was the Laois reply but Westmeath remained firmly in control and substitute, Sean Loughlin pointed with the left boot when a goal looked likely. Maher added a point and Mannion and Adam Loughlin created the chance for Carroll to find the net with two minutes remaining.
Laois had the consolation of late points from Attride and Connolly (another fine score), but it was Westmeath who were comprehensive winners when the final whistle sounded.
SCORERS – Westmeath: T Maher 4-1 (1-0 pen), D Carroll 1-4 (0-3f), E Nally 2-1, D Hynes 0-2, S Loughlin 0-1. Laois: J Connolly 0-4 (1f), L Hand 1-0, L Attride 0-3 (1f), P Kealy 0-2, J Phelan and D Feane 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH – Matthew Rowden (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge); Ruairi Aspell (Shannon Gaels), Robbie Cleary (Milltownpass), Plunkett Maxwell (Rosemount); Conor Dillon (Millmore Gaels), Jamie Rooney (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge), Maitiú Scully (Shandonagh); Daniel Reid (Athlone), Adam Loughlin (The Downs); Sean McGrane (Shannon Gaels), Eoin Nally (Ballynacargy), Daire Hynes (Millmore Gaels); Cathal Mannion (Garrycastle), Troy Maher (Ballynacargy), Dylan Carroll (The Downs). Subs: Ben Treanor (Shandonagh) for Dillon (inj, 30), Sean Lyster (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge) for McGrane (49), Sean Loughlin (The Downs) for Nally (51), Ryan Norris (Shandonagh) for Aspell (56), Jake Fannin (Moate All Whites) for Scully (57), James Murphy (St Malachy’s/Ballinagore) for Maher (57).
LAOIS – Ross McGrath; Cian Moffitt, Sean Ryan, Daniel Wall; Jimmy O’Connor, Conor Brennan, Paul McReady; James Phelan, Dylan Feane; Luke Hand, Peter Kealy, Luke Attride; Jamie Connolly, Camon Brennan, Mark McDermott. Subs: Evan Lowry for Wall (b/card, 18), Craig Davis for Ryan (inj, 21), Dara Phelan for McGrath (h-time), Sean Devoy for O’Connor (b/card, 34), Max Connolly for McDermott (52), Ger Kieran for Hand (54).
REFEREE – Donal Kane (Longford).
Fr Manning update
Westmeath play Sligo next Wednesday in Cusack Park and another win for Ambrose McGowan’s charges leaves them in with a good chance of qualifying. Longford lost to Sligo last week.
Meanwhile, in the other group, Leitrim, Offaly and Roscommon are battling it out after Kildare withdrew due to a clash with club games.