Westmeath enjoy their day out in the sun
John Heslin shines as Wexford well beaten in Division Four decider at Croker
Wexford’s PJ Banville has a shot saved by Darren Quinn of Westmeath. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Westmeath 2-24 Wexford 2-11
John Heslin led the way with an eight-point haul as Westmeath were crowned Allianz Football League Division 4 champions on Saturday afternoon.
Westmeath had 13 points to spare on Wexford at Croke Park, having previously beaten the admittedly under-strength Slaneysiders by 3-24 to 0-9 in the penultimate group fixture.
It’s the first time since 2008, when Westmeath defeated Dublin in the Division 2 showpiece, that the Lake County has captured a league crown.
Westmeath were well in control at half-time, leading by 1-11 to 1-4. The sides had been level at 0-3 each before Westmeath collected 1-4 without reply to put real daylight between the sides.
The goal arrived in the 16th minute, captain Ger Egan rolling home a penalty after James Dolan was taken down by Paul Curtis, who somehow managed to avoid sanction when it appeared to be a black card offence.
Soon after, Daithí Waters was booked, when referee Paul Fallon could have opted for red after the Wexford captain struck out at Kelvin Reilly.
Having been rocked back on their heels, Wexford responded well as Kevin O’Grady, one of their better players, slalomed through for a fine goal at the Hill 16 end, buried into the corner with his left boot.
Following the Wexford goal, Westmeath regained a firm grip on proceedings, outscoring their opponents by 0-4 to 0-1 approaching the break.
Westmeath picked up where they had left off in the second half and from a long way out, the result of this game was never in doubt.
The lead increased as the second period wore on and Wexford would have to finish the game with 14 players when Conor Carty was black-carded with six minutes left, with all six substitutes used.
Both teams had emptied the bench and replacements had big impacts as Shane Dempsey scored a bizarre late goal for Westmeath, his shot somehow creeping into the net past Roche at the goalkeeper’s near post.
There was a late consolation goal for Wexford sub Donal Shanley, scorer of 1-2 after coming on, but Westmeath had a 17-point lead approaching the finish before taking the foot off the pedal.
Westmeath: D Quinn; K Maguire, M McCallon, J Gonoud; J Dolan, K Daly, N Mulligan; A Stone, G Egan (1-2, 1-0 pen); K Reilly (0-1), P Sharry (0-3), D Lynch; K Martin (0-4), J Heslin (0-8, 5f), T McDaniels (0-3). Subs: D Glennon for Daly (49), S Dempsey (1-1) for McDaniels (52), D Corroon for Stone (56), J Egan for Mulligan (57), J Connellan (0-2) for Martin (62), C McCormack for Lynch (66).
Wexford: S Roche; R Devereux, J Rossiter, M Furlong (0-1); B Malone, E Nolan, K O’Grady (1-1); D Waters (0-1), C Kehoe; J Leacy, B Brosnan, P Curtis; C Lyng (0-4, 3f); J Tubritt, PJ Banville (0-2). Subs: C Carty for Curtis (30), A Flynn for Leacy (h.t.), M O’Regan for Devereux (h.t.), D Shanley (1-2, 0-1f, 0-1 45) for Brosnan (43), J Wadding for Tubritt (51), T Rossiter for Nolan (56).
Referee: P Fallon (Down)