Westmeath senior footballers quest to retain the O’Byrne Cup reached its culmination on Saturday afternoon when a well drilled Offaly team defeated the current silverware holders by five points at a rain lashed Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, Tullamore venue.
Shorn of two of the squad’s most influential players due to injury - Maryland clubman, Kieran Martin and John Heslin - Westmeath, playing with the elements in their favour in the opening half, failed to capitalise on the prevalent weather conditions and were in arrears by the minimum come the shrill of the interval whistle.
In an error strewn first half, Offaly were the team which displayed more accuracy in the final third of the Tullamore turf, with the absence of both Martin and Heslin proving scoreboard detrimental to the Lake County’s aspirations.
Both teams were competitively undefeated prior to throw-in and when Castledaly clubman, Lorcan Dolan edged Westmeath two points clear as the first half elapsed it appeared that Jack Cooney’s charges would bear prominent momentum with the latter thirty minutes to play.
Three swift pointed scores ensure the Faithful County had the ascendancy in the second moiety and with Westmeath managing to raise a mere four points from here on, Offaly annexed a place in the ultimate fixture with a more dominant display.
Their hands on the O’Byrne Cup now relinquished, Westmeath management and players thoughts now firmly turn towards the commencement of the National Football League Division 2 campaign, with Clare being the visitors to TEG Cusack Park for a repeat of the All-Ireland qualifier contest in football championship 2019.
Westmeath will be eager to erase that solitary point loss and start their promotion quest with a victory. However, the presence in Tullamore of Kieran Martin in a protective boot will be of major concern to the team’s loyal support base with his on field influence due to be absent from the squad for four to six weeks.
It is hoped that John Heslin will be fit to don the maroon and white jersey on Sunday, January 26, as Westmeath strive for a swift return to winning ways and an opening brace of league points prior to their first away league fixture against Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday, February 1.