Westmeath were already qualified for the playoffs and were only playing for playoff positioning. Stamford had already been eliminated from the post-season playoffs, or so it seemed. Stamford apparently intend to file an objection and if they get the two points from that match, the playoffs could have a whole different look.
With this backdrop Sunday at Gaelic Park, Stamford came out like a team fighting for its playoff life, while Westmeath looked unconcerned.
Stamford were on the board moments after referee Donie O’Sullivan’s throw in. Spike Martin, Stamford’s veteran goal scoring ace, showed he still has the knack and Stamford were on their way. After Westmeath closed the gap to a point with scores from P.J. Ward and Brian Murphy, Fergal O’Neill struck back with two quick points.
Interestingly, Stamford goalkeeper Paddy Donohue had played earlier in the day for Westmeath in the JFB semifinal triumph and he was to pick up his second victory of the day, this time at Westmeath’s expense.
Stamford really got on the road to victory with Eric Bradley’s cracker of a goal. Bradley took a pass about 40 yards from the Westmeath goal and turned on the jets. Bradley carried 20 yards and then let fly. His shot had pace and accuracy, and nestled in the top left-hand corner of the Westmeath goal, leaving keeper Peader Reynolds no chance. O’Neill followed Bradley’s gem with two more points, one from a free, which Bradley earned.
Westmeath were quiet, although Murphy briefly interrupted the Nutmeggers run with a Westmeath point. Then it was Bradley again and once more Stamford were ascendant. Westmeath never raised a gallop from then on out and Stamford closed out this match in impressive fashion.
Stamford’s Ronan Mooney and Peter Quinlan had their way in the middle of the park, and their forwards reaped the benefits of the pair’s hard work. The prime beneficiaries were of course O’Neill and Bradley. Both big, agile men, they can cause problems for most defenses. Unfortunately for Connecticut, they seem to have come right at the wrong time, unless they can prevail at the appeals court.
For Westmeath, this is one they will want to put behind them as quickly as possible. This is a bit of a dangerous game they are playing, because bad habits, like losing, can be hard to break. It will be interesting to see if Westmeath suffer a hangover from this performance when they challenge Kerry in the SFA semifinals.
Man of the Match: Fergal O’Neill
Stamford: Paddy Donohue, Darren Doherty, Jason Killeen, Justin O’Halloran, Stephen Owen, Richie Purcell (0-1), Keith Hennessey, Ronan Mooney, Peter Quinlan, Eric McDonald, Fergal O’Neill (0-8), Shane Canning, Mike Martin (1-4), Padraig Graven (2-2), Eric Bradley. (1-1) Subs: Noel McGovern (0-1), Kevin Newell.
Westmeath: Peader Reynolds, Kieran Walsh, David Baile, Frank Kavanagh, Tom Quinn, Michael Jackson, Garreth Baile, David Hughes, Enda Henry, Brian McCabe, David Fitzgerald, P.J. Ward (0-5), Shane Ward (0-3), Brian Murphy (0-2). Sub: Ken Cox.