Westmeath squeeze past Offaly to take derby honours in Mullingar
Niall McNamee?s ambitious long-range free falls wide as home side win by one point
Westmeath’s John Heslin kicks a point despite the attempted challenge of Offaly’s Seán Pender during the Leinster SFC quarter-final at Cusack Park in Mullingar. Photograph: Tom Beary/Inpho
Westmeath 0-13 Offaly 0-12
Last year’s defeated Leinster finalists Westmeath edged their way to a semi-final showdown with Kildare with a one-point win in a pulsating local derby clash with Offaly in Mullingar.
The home team led from start to finish, making good use of the breeze in their backs in the first half. Tom Cribbin’s charges led by 0-4 to 0-0 after 16 minutes, three of their scores coming from John Heslin, including two great points from play.
Three unanswered points from Offaly, the best of them from Graham Guilfoyle, kept them well in touch. However, Westmeath dominated the possession stakes for long periods, with roving centre half forward John Connellan dictating much of the play and scoring two quality points in the process. At the other end, Westmeath were defending tenaciously.
Offaly’s nerves were epitomised on two occasions in the closing minutes of the first half. Firstly, when Niall Smith fumbled the ball with a goal at his mercy on the half-hour mark and, secondly, a fluffed catch by goalkeeper Alan Mulhall resulted in Paul Sharry converting the resultant ‘45’some two minutes later. Westmeath were full value for their six-point lead at the interval (0-9 to 0-3).
Seven minutes into the second half, Guilfoyle was black-carded for a challenge on Kevin Maguire. Corner back Brian Darby almost got in for an Offaly goal, but Pat Flanagan’s men gradually whittled away at Westmeath’s lead with Nigel Dunne proving accurate from frees. The margin was down to the bare minimum (0-10 to 0-9) at the end of the third quarter.
Westmeath were finding scores hard to come by, but Heslin and Kieran Martin – the two heroes of their first ever championship win against Meath last summer – kept the scoreboard ticking over with terrific points in the 55th and 66th minutes respectively.
Nigel Dunne kicked a fine point under pressure to leave his side trailing by a single point when four minutes of added-time was signalled. Dunne became the second Offaly player to be black-carded before James Dolan, who excelled at wing back all through, came forward to increase Westmeath’s advantage in the first minute of injury-time. Offaly’s centre half back Peter Cunningham doubled his personal tally a minute later.
With time almost up, a very ambitious long-range free from Niall McNamee was well wide of the target enabling Westmeath to hold on and qualify for a penultimate round contest with Kildare on June 26th. A brief unsavoury incident after the final whistle led to a Westmeath player leaving the pitch with a bloodied face and a suspected broke nose.
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; K Daly, F Boyle, J Gonoud; J Dolan (0-1), A Stone, K Maguire; D Corroon (0-1), G Egan; D Lynch, J Connellan (0-3), C McCormack; P Sharry (0-2, one ‘45’), K Martin (0-1), J Heslin (0-5, two frees).
Subs: J Egan for Lynch (39 mins), B Sayeh for McCormack (56 mins), D Daly for J Egan (64 mins), P Fagan for K Daly (65 mins), L Dolan for Connellan (67 mins).
OFFALY: A Mulhall; S Pender, E Rigney, B Darby; N Darby, P Cunningham (0-2), J O’Connor; E Carroll, N Smith; G Guilfoyle (0-1), N Dunne (0-6, five frees), M Brazil; B Allen (0-1), N McNamee (0-1), J Moloney (0-1).
Subs: A Sullivan for Guilfoyle (44 mins, BC), N Bracken for Brazil (53 mins), S Doyle for Allen (60 mins), C Donohue for Dunne (71 mins, BC).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).