McCormack's net profit for Westmeath
Westmeath 1-15 Louth 0-12A 65TH-MINUTE goal from impressive half-time substitute Callum McCormack was the key score for a far-from-impressive Westmeath as they gained revenge for their Leinster championship defeat by Louth six weeks earlier, in an incident-packed All-Ireland senior football qualifier first round game in front of 1,700 spectators in Mullingar on Saturday evening.
An under-strength Louth outfit were also short the services of manager Peter Fitzpatrick – in hospital with a kidney stone ailment – and their cause looked lost when they faced the second half with 13 men and due to play against the wind.
Straight red cards had been issued on the advice of the linesmen to Mark Brennan, in the 25th minute (following an off-the-ball clash with John Heslin) and Darren Clarke, on the stroke of half-time (after he pulled Doron Harte to his feet, clearly claiming his initial contact with the defender had been minimal).
Louth led by 0-7 to 0-5 at the break, with Clarke and Heslin – who, despite Paddy Keenan’s absence for Louth, struggled to impose himself in midfield just 11 days after keyhole surgery – the main marksmen, sharing seven points from placed balls.
Scores from open play were at a premium in the first half, Westmeath’s Ger Egan rifling over two, while the pick of Louth’s points came from Aaron Hoey on the quarter-hour mark.
Louth should have increased their advantage within a minute of the resumption, but a quickly-taken free close to the Westmeath goal backfired and McCormack halved the deficit immediately at the other end.
Points followed from Denis Glennon, McCormack again and Heslin (another free) to put the home team two points ahead.
Louth, whose spirit was best exemplified by attacking half back Ray Finnegan, refused to throw in the towel and they were on level terms (0-11 each) by the 61st minute.
Two minutes later, Heslin was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card and a Louth victory looked a distinct possibility before Westmeath struck for the decisive goal from McCormack.
It was a very well-worked score, with an intuitive long ball from Ger Egan (who rivalled McCormack for man of the match) being superbly fielded by Denis Glennon, whose lay-off to McCormack was outstanding.
Paul Sharry then came close to adding what would have been a superb individual goal, but Pat Flanagan’s charges quickly added four unanswered points and a converted free from Jim McEneaney in injury-time was merely a consolation score for a plucky Wee County side.
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; M McCallon, J Gaffey, K Maguire; D Harte, P Sharry, D McDermott; J Heslin (0-4, frees), P Bannon; K Martin, David Glennon, G Egan (0-4); M Ennis, J Dolan (0-1), Denis Glennon (0-3, 0-1 free). Subs: C McCormack (1-3) for McDermott (half-time), D Corroon for Ennis (49 mins).
LOUTH: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G Hoey; R Finnegan (0-1), M Fanning, D Byrne (0-1); J McEneaney (0-3, frees), M Brennan; A Reid, A Hoey (0-1), D Reid; D Crilly (0-1), JP Rooney (0-1), D Clarke (0-4, frees). Subs: J Carr for D Reid (half-time), D Collier for Hoey (inj, 53 mins), R Moore for Rooney (57 mins), D O’Connor for Fanning (67 mins), D McComish for R Finnegan (68 mins).
Referee: D Fahy (Longford).