By Sean O’Reilly
Westmeath 2-10, Offaly 0-10
Westmeath made hard work of this victory even though the scoreline may suggest otherwise. With 10 minutes remaining Sunday at Gaelic Park, the sides were level and Offaly were looking for victory, having held Westmeath scoreless for 20 minutes of the second half. Westmeath, however, finished the stronger and found the crucial scores when it mattered most.
Westmeath started with scores from their imports Mark Finn (0-2) and Meath senior Nicky Horan (0-2). Offaly’s response came from duelstar David "shaper" Reynolds with a sideline cut. Nicky Horan was Westmeath’s target man in the first half and he scored some fine points to leave his side 1-6 to 0-4 ahead at the break. The goal came from Horan when he blocked an attempted clearance from Offaly keeper Dan Coughlan. Offaly kept in touch with scores from Damien Moran, Pierce Garth and a free from Reynolds just on the stroke of halftime.
Offaly stormed into the second half with a good score from substitute Kevin Cleary. This was followed by a Pierce Garth point from all of 60 yards.
Westmeath had a point in the fourth minute from mark Finn, but they didn’t manage another until the 24th as Offaly took control of the game. Another score from Garth, followed by a John Ryan point, left the minimum between the sides.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Westmeath looked to be in real trouble as David Reynolds leveled the game in the 20th minute. It wasn’t to be Offaly’s day as Westmeath found another gear in the form of Mark Finn, who rounded off a great solo run by rounding two men and planting the ball in the Offaly net.
The Offaly comeback was halted and Westmeath added further scores from Horan (0-2) and substitute Jimmy Hughes. Offaly did put up a good fight in the second period and had they been more economical with their possession they could easily have upset Westmeath. Their best hurling came in the form of David Reynolds, weekender Pierce Garth, Sean Nolan and John Ryan.
Westmeath were best served by Peter Dalton and Brian McCabe in defense and imports Nicky Horan and Mark Finn in attack.
Westmeath: D. Fitzgerald, R. Brean, B. Smith, D. Curley, P. Dalton, B. McCabe, D. Kenny, A. Barry, N. Horan (1-5), P. Corcoran, M. Finn (1-4), L. Coll, J. McDonald. Subs: Jimmy Hughes (0-1), Brendan Kirby.
Offaly: D. Coughlan, M. Dolan, C. Scanlon, B. Delaney, E. Condron, E. Lohan, S. Lohan, D. Moran(0-1), P. Garth (0-3), D. Reynolds (0-4), D. Kelly, S. Donaghue, J. Ryan(0-1). Subs: Kevin Cleary (0-1), Nigel Carney.