By Peter Nolan
A fine crowd was treated to a fabulous Gaelic football match as Westmeath edged Tyrone in Sunday’s Senior A contest at Gaelic Park.
Tyrone continue to be snake bit, once again finding themselves in the frustrating role of gallant losers. After playing some very good football this year, Tyrone are now 1-3 and looking at a premature end to their season.
Tyrone were first on the board with an excellent free from midfielder Tom Brewster. He was partnered by brother Paul; the two Fermanagh men making up the Tyrone midfield. The brothers combined for Tyrone’s next score with Tom Brewster banging over a great point from Paul Brewster’s feed.
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Tyrone were moving the ball efficiently and looked dangerous. Westmeath, meanwhile, were having trouble finding the posts, but eventually they broke through in style. Their powerful young forward P.J. Ward, operating at the top of the right instead of on the square, drove over a brilliant sideline ball, bringing the crowd to its feet. Amazingly, Ward scored every one of Westmeath’s points on the day.
Tyrone came right back at them and Justin Murray found Laois star Colm Parkinson at the end of another fine Tyrone move. Parkinson made no mistake and Tyrone led 0-3 to 0-1. Tyrone’s attack was fluid as moves built well from halfbacks Collie Fearon and Kieran Doyle, to half forwards Gavin Wiley, Parkinson, and Martin O’Rourke. Westmeath had a couple of bad misses in front of goal and kept in touch only through two more Ward frees and some stubborn defending from Tom Quinn and Michael Jackson, in particular.
Then Westmeath struck back with a perfectly timed goal. Center forward Shane Ward sent a long ball goalward and full forward Enda Muldoon caught, turned and buried it. Sometimes it looks so simple. Tyrone bounced back, but Ward matched them with 0-3 for the rest of the half, and Westmeath led 1-6 to 0-7 at the interval.
P.J. Ward pointed yet another free to stretch the Midlanders’ lead as the second half resumed. Tyrone came back at them again, drawing within a point, with scores from Tom Brewster, and a great shot from Ollie Gaughan.
Then Westmeath struck again for another timely goal. This time Muldoon fed Shane Ward and the Down weekender took his time, picked his spot, and rifled home a great goal. Tyrone now trailed by 0-4, but again they fought back. The level of play, so high in the opening half, dipped just a bit as the pressure mounted and tempers rose.
O’Rourke, Murray, and Parkinson pointed for the Ulster men, drawing within a point, 2-7 to 0-12. P.J. Ward and Martin McMahon exchanged points, but Tyrone couldn’t get over the hump and P.J. Ward, fittingly, pointed twice more, once from another sideline ball to seal the victory for Westmeath, and just maybe Tyrone’s fate as well.
Man of the Match: P.J. Ward.
Westmeath: Eoin Farrell, Peter Dalton, Ciaran Walsh, David Baile, Tom Quinn, Aiden Canning, Michael Jackson, David Hughes, Pauric Clancy, Brian Murphy, Shane Ward (1-0), Garreth Baile, Dave Fitzgerald, Enda Muldoon (1-0), P.J. Ward (0-11, 3 sidelines, 7 frees). Sub: Brian McCabe.
Tyrone: Anthony McCann, Martin McMahon (0-1), Ciaran Byrne, Eugene McCann, Collie Fearon, Kieran Doyle, Phil Sloan, Paul Brewster, Tom Brewster (0-6, 2 frees), Gavin Wiley (0-1), Colm Parkinson (0-2), Martin O’Rourke (0-1), Noel McPartland, Justin Murray (0-1), Ollie Gaughan (0-2).