Second-half flurry secures semi-final date with Dublin

Kieran Martin of Westmeath celebrates scoring his side's third goal. Photo: Piaras O'Midheach/Sportsfile

Kieran Martin of Westmeath celebrates scoring his side's third goal. Photo: Piaras O'Midheach/Sportsfile

Westmeath finished strongly in last Saturday's Leinster SFC quarter-final replay to secure a Croke Park date against Dublin this Sunday.

A demanding encounter at the penultimate stage in the province awaits Westmeath, who pulled clear in the closing stages in Mullingar to beat Offaly by 3-17 to 0-15.

Offaly had contributed to an interesting match which provided far more entertainment than the previous drawn game, but Westmeath had too much strength in attack.

John Heslin registered 1-6, while Kieran Martin and John Egan also netted goals for Tom Cribbin's team.

Westmeath manager Cribbin was satisfied with how his team performed following the stalemate six days previously at O'Connor Park, Tullamore.

"We went out to play the same football last week, but the conditions were very, very difficult for both teams," Cribbin said in an interview with Midlands Sport 103.

"It looked horrendous and it looked slow, but there was a serious breeze across the pitch, it was very difficult for the lads. There were a lot of wides so here it was perfect conditions for football. There was a breeze, but it was straight down the pitch. It was a bit easier when it is like that, the conditions couldn't have been better for football."

Cribbin was encouraged by how Westmeath performed with nine different players delivering scores.

"I think all of the lads played exceptionally well," he reflected. "We knew we had to get the ball in quicker, but at the same time it was a bit easier to get it in with the wind going straight down the pitch.

"We had it in the first half and it suited us to be able to give in in there. We knew the boys could win it if we could get it into them, but with the cross-wind it was impossible to give in quality ball."

Relieved to have cleared the Offaly hurdle, Cribbin also praised the Westmeath substitutes, who helped earn the win.

"It was always going to be very tough between both teams, two counties with plenty of tradition there. Derby games are always going to be tough and physical when both teams want to win at all costs.

"We were forced to make a few early changes. The subs that came on played exceptionally, everyone on the pitch for us from one to 15 played exceptionally well.

"It is great to get a win, to be in the semi-final next weekend. It is going to be difficult with an eight-day turnaround, but that is life. The lads did brilliant with a six-day turnaround, both teams, and played a super game of football. Hopefully we can do the same to get our injuries sorted as early as possible."

Offaly boss Pat Flanagan was disappointed at how the second period unfolded. Having played into the breeze in the first half Offaly only trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval. After the restart Westmeath struck three goals and Offaly were unable to recover.

"We came here full of hope after last week when I thought that we had controlled a lot of the game," Flanagan stated. "In the first half we didn't control the game, we allowed Westmeath to control and we were always chasing after they got a few early points.

"They went in four points up, but we didn't think that was too much of an issue to be honest. With the breeze that was out there we felt that we had plenty in the tank to get that back."

Westmeath, though, had other ideas, and the Midlanders now face Dublin in the championship for the third year in a row. Dublin triumphed in the 2015 and 2016 Leinster finals, but Westmeath will be hoping to pose a few questions at GAA headquarters this weekend.

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