By Mike Fitzpatrick
Donegal 2-7, Westmeath 0-7
Last week at Gaelic Park, Westmeath stunned the New York Gaelic world by inflicting a deserved five-point victory over reigning champions Kerry. The Kingdom’s princes are not used to defeat these days, having stormed their way in unheralded style last year to the senior football championship.
Donegal, perhaps the favorites for the title last year, were defeated in the season’s final game by that same Kerry team. Therefore, we were in for an interesting 60 minutes in this senior football Div. 1 game. The midlands side were more in need of the championship points, as before this game, they lay in joint fourth position with Leitrim. With five teams eligible for playoff contention this year due to the extended division, Westmeath were well on course. A victory here would have all but clinched their place in the final five.
It was not to be, however.
Despite some rewarding forward play early on in the contest, when Greg Ramsbottom and Ciaran Ryan hit points to keep them within distance of Donegal’s early lead, the Ulster side took control of the game before the half time break, and ran out deserved six point winners.
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Donegal’s Niall McCready latched onto a defensive misunderstanding and pounced to strike the ball past the despairing arms of Westmeath keeper Kevin Wilson to give the northerners a four-point lead going into the interval.
After the break, both sides attacked, but it was Donegal who punished their opponents with some good work off the breaking ball. Gary Dowd punished the Westmeath backline with his side’s second goal following some great movement in midfield from Mick Moran, and Donegal were on their way towards victory.
Some fine scoring from Greg Ramsbottom followed in the second half, but Dowd’s goal proved to be the killer punch for John Moore’s men.
Donegal now jump into a healthy position near the top of the senior table and have all but qualified for the final stages, as indeed they have grown accustomed to doing. It’s difficult to tell exactly how this side will perform in the latter stages of the season, or whether they can shake off rivals Tyrone, Stamford and Kerry on their way to glory. Not the most convincing performance they’ve put together this season, but with another two valuable championship points in the bag, Messrs McGrath and Molloy will certainly not be complaining.
Westmeath: Kevin Wilson, Brendan Kearney, David Bailie, Neil McSherry, Tom Moriarty, Tom Guinn, Peter Dalton, James Kavanagh, Ciaran Doyle, Stephen O’Shea (0-1), Ciaran Ryan (0-1), Greg Ramsbottom (0-3), Barney Healey (0-1), Brian McCabe (0-1), Pat Spellman Subs: Ciaran Walsh, Frank Kavanagh.
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Keith Murray, Donal Cummins, Paddy McConigley, Gerry Kelly, Anthony Lynch, Aidan McClafferty, Gary Dowd (1-1), Mick Moran, Donal Breslin (0-2), JP Boyle, Niall McCready (0-1), Brian Roper, Kieran O’Hare (1-3), Kieran Keaveney. Subs Mark McClafferty, James Doherty, Liam Gallagher.