Tailteann Cup Semi-Final
Westmeath 3-22 Offaly 2-16
By Gerry Buckley at Croke Park (from gaa.ie website)
Westmeath enjoyed impressive win over Offaly in the second Tailteann Cup semi-final.
Offaly had the aid of the wind in the first half, but it was their neighbours who started much the brighter. An early brace from John Heslin, the second of them from a free, had them two points up by the sixth minute. Sam McCartan and Lorcan Dolan added points before strong-running centre half back Ronan Wallace found the net with aplomb on the quarter-hour mark.
John Maughan’s charges opened their account in the 17th minute when quick thinking from a free by veteran Niall McNamee teed up the youthful Keith O’Neill for a drop-kicked goal.
However, despite some wasteful shooting – they shot nine wides in the first moiety to their opponents’ six – Westmeath, who won all their kick-outs and with Ronan O’Toole very influential as leader of their attack, continued to dominate and it was no surprise when they pounced for their second goal in the 22nd minute, Lorcan Dolan sliding the ball home after a nice flick into his path by McCartan.
Anton Sullivan was doing his utmost to keep Offaly in contention and he kicked two fine points from play. Heslin almost scored a third Westmeath goal on the half-hour mark – ironically, his colleague Luke Loughlin prevented the ball from reaching the net – but Jack Cooney’s men were full value for their eight-point lead at the interval (2-11 to 1-6).
Heslin brought his tally to 0-6 within 20 seconds of the resumption of play and Ray Connellan opened his account some two minutes later. Offaly replied with points from O’Neill and impressive sub Dylan Hyland (his second) before Jason Daly superbly denied Jordan Hayes a three-pointer in the 42nd minute at the expense of an unconverted ‘45’.
Offaly were much more in contention than they had been in the first half and, with McNamee reliable from frees, they were seven points in arrears when Dolan brilliantly scored his second goal in the 53rd minute after great work by team captain Kevin Maguire, to all but seal his side’s place in the decider against Cavan.
Sub Cathal Flynn scored a great goal for Offaly on the hour mark but they had left themselves with far too much to do. Indeed, all of the losers’ subs impressed and made the scoresheet. Skipper Johnny Moloney did his best to rally his troops but Westmeath never looked remotely like losing the game, and two of their late subs also scored well-taken points. Paddy Dunican prevented the ever-threatening O’Toole from finding the net in the 67th minute, after which the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion.
Both teams showed better shot selection in the second half – Westmeath had no wides and Offaly just four.
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (3fs), L Dolan 2-1, R O’Toole 0-4, R Wallace 1-0, S McCartan 0-3, L Loughlin 0-2, R Connellan, J Dolan, R Forde, A Gardiner 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: N McNamee 0-6 (6fs), K O’Neill 1-2, C Flynn 1-0, D Hyland 0-3, A Sullivan 0-2, J Bryant, M Abbott, J McEvoy 0-1 each.
Westmeath: J Daly; J Smith, K Maguire, J Gonoud; J Dolan, R Wallace, S McCartan; S Duncan, R Connellan; J Lynam, R O’Toole, D Lynch; L Loughlin, J Heslin, L Dolan.
Subs: R Forde for Duncan (46), G Egan for Lynam (54), A Gardiner for L Dolan (63), K Martin for Loughlin (68), N Harte for J Dolan (68).
Offaly: P Dunican; L Pearson, D Hogan, D Dempsey; R Egan, J Moloney, C Donohoe; C McNamee, J Hayes; B Carroll, R McNamee, A Sullivan; J Bryant, N McNamee, K O’Neill.
Subs: D Hyland for Carroll (22), C Flynn for Bryant (52), M Abbott for Pearson (52), J McEvoy for R McNamee (65).
Referee: P Faloon (Down).