Westmeath see off Louth thanks to second-half goals

Callum McCormack, Shane Dempsey and Ray Connellan on the mark in Drogheda

Westmeath 3-14 Louth 0-16

A game that had been reasonably nip-and-tuck up to the break fell decisively in Westmeath’s favour with two goals in four minutes after it. Though Louth kept shovelling coal into the fire, they couldn’t compete with the goals for combustion. They got six of the next eight points after the second Westmeath goal, only to be suckered into conceding a third. Rookie stuff, understandably so.

"I'm not making excuses," said Louth manager Colin Kelly. "This is no one's fault. But the reality is where we are and it's not easy. You're talking about a lot of debutants, it's a whole new squad, we're working as hard as we can. I don't think there would have been a younger county team in the country playing championship than there was out there today.

“We felt we missed some scores that should have been easily converted. We felt at half-time that that was the case, we probably should have turned a couple of scores ahead. Then in the second-half we were chasing the game. I thought we started well and got back into it a wee bit. Just, again, the story of our lives, we coughed up a couple of goals and were chasing the game from that on. It was an impossible task then.”

They came up against a Westmeath side that weren't scintillating by any means but who have a far clearer idea about what they're about. Kieran Martin played his role at centre-back with authority and both Shane Dempsey and Ray Connellan fizzed around the attack to useful effect.


Shone above

But it was

John Heslin

who shone above them all. Playing at full-forward, he took nine shots at goal over the afternoon and missed with none of them. When they were playing against the wind in the first half, his free-taking punished any slips in the Louth defence. He had a hand in two of the three Westmeath goals as well.

After carrying a 0-7 to 0-6 lead into the second half with them, Westmeath kicked for home almost immediately. The first goal was finished by Callum McCormack after he was found by a hopeful ball in by Paddy Holloway. The second four minutes later was palmed home by the other corner-forward Dempsey after Heslin and Ger Egan combined to put it on a plate for him.

The second goal made it 2-8 to 0-7 in Westmeath's favour with half an hour to go and if those watching on assumed that was that, it looked for all the world that most of the Westmeath players joined them in their thinking. Louth's best period followed with the excellent Ryan Burns and substitute Eoin O'Connor showing huge gusto for the fight.

A terrific O’Connor point from distance on 56 minutes left the scoreline at 2-10 to 0-13 and though Louth were playing into the wind, they had all the momentum. But in their haste to join in the carnival, they forgot to lock up the shop. Dempsey and Heslin were left in a hectare of space at the other end to slip Connellan in for the killer goal and send Westmeath through to meet Wexford.


Tom Cribbins demurred when it was suggested afterwards that the performance was a response to his outburst after their relegation.

“I speak from the heart the whole time with them. I was disappointed. I was disappointed for them. Sometimes you want to have an excuse – the lads were drinking or messing or something. But they’re not like that. They’re as committed a bunch of players as I’ve ever worked with in my life. When you have people like that and you they’re nice people to work with, you like to see them achieve.

“We wanted to go and try and win a game rather than be afraid to lose it. That’s what we said we were going to do. We were going to go and try and win a game rather than be nervous and lose the shagging thing because we didn’t try hard enough to win it.”

WESTMEATH: 1 Darren Quinn; 2 John Gilligan, 3 Kevin Maguire, 4 Killian Daly; 5 Paddy Holloway, 6 Kieran Martin, 7 James Dolan; 8 Darragh Daly, 9 Ger Egan; 23 John Egan, 11 Ray Connellan (1-2), 12 John Stapleton; 13 Callum McCormack (1-1), 14 John Heslin (0-9, six frees), 15 Shane Dempsey (1-2).

Subs: 22 Ronan Foley for Stapleton (55 mins), 25 Lorcan Smith for Daly ( 58 mins), 17 Francis Boyle for Holloway ( 69 mins).

LOUTH: 1 Neil Gallagher; 2 Anthony Williams, 3 Patrick Reilly, 4 Pádraig Rath; 5 Declan Byrne (0-2), 6 Darren O'Hanlon, 7 Adrian Reid; 8 Bevan Duffy, 9 Tommy Durnin (0-2); 10 Derek Maguire (0-1), 11 Colm Judge (0-1), 12 James Stewart; 13 Ryan Burns (0-6, four frees), 14 Conor Grimes (0-2), 15 Paraic Smith.

Subs: 20 Eoin O'Connor (0-2) for Smith (35 mins), 17 Dessie Finnegan for Duffy (43 mins), 21 Ruairí Moore for Maguire ( 50 mins), 18 Derek Crilly for Stewart (61 mins).

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times