By Pierce O’Reilly
Westmeath 0-10, Tyrone 1-7
Westmeath and Tyrone played out a fiery and physical game in the top clash of the day at Gaelic Park on Sunday. The rivalry between the clubs since John Moore’s departure has been well documented, yet the clashes on Sunday, while hard, always remained fair.
Tyrone were first to raise a white flag and in Colm McCullaghy they had a real target man. McCullaghy, a Tyrone senior panelist last year, had pace to burn and if Tyrone had utilized him better over the hour, they could easily have required the two points. McCullaghy’s early point was quickly nullified by Donegal star Kevin Winston, who hit a total of seven excellent frees during the afternoon. While Winston failed to impress from open play, his ability to score from the ground at vital stages kept the Midlanders in the game when Tyrone held the advantage.
At the interval, the Ulster men led 1-3 to 0-5 with McCullaghy’s brilliant goal after 15 minutes the difference between the sides. While Winston was the sole contributors for Westmeath, Tyrone had better options upfront with Kieran Ryan, Mark Sloan and Joe Campbell all getting on the score sheet.
The sending off of Tyrone full back Padraig Giles for a second bookable offense failed to halter their dominance and with substitute Niall Cogan beginning to dominate around the middle they continued to attack at the start of the second half.
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Weatmeath ‘s manager, P.J. Quinn, is a shrewd operator and his second-half tactical switches worked wonders for his side. Brian McCabe was allocated a roving role around the middle, while Sam Yore and big Vernon Gallagher were interchanged with the two struggling midfielders. McCabe hit an inspirational point after 10 minutes of the second half to follow a Mathew Gilroy point to narrow the gap to two points. Winston then hit two great frees and with 25 minutes played the sides were level, 1-6 to 0-9.
Westmeath held the advantage at this late stage and when Padraig Hurley put them in front, Quinn was sure he had done enough. Moore and his selectors looked in distress, and after losing two games already, they desperately needed inspiration. Martin Slowey and Kieran Ryan held their cool to attack one more time, and when weekender Joe Campbell was fouled in front of goal, McCullaghy pointed with ease. Westmeath full back Kieran Walsh was sent off in the dying minutes for apparently striking out at a Tyrone forward. Time, however, saved his side and a share of the spoils at the end was the fairest result.
Tyrone: Andrew McCann, Conor McCarthy, Collie Fearon, Padraig Giles, Martin Slowey, Richard Brennan, Barry Kelly, John Cormican, Rory Breen, Paddy Sloan, Mark Sloan 0-1, Kieran Ryan 0-1, Dermot Curley, Joe Campbell 0-2, Colm McCullagh 1-3.
Westmeath: Kieran Traynor, Peter Dalton, Kieran Walsh, David Bailie, Tom Quinn, Brian McCabe 0-1, Tommy Moriarty, Sam Yore, Pauric Hurley 0-1, Vernon Gallagher, Kevin Winston 0-7, Matt Kilroy 0-1, Barney Healy, Enda Henry, Brendan Tuohy.