WESTMEATH 2-12 MAYO 0-21
A relegation play-off fixture potentially awaits the Westmeath senior footballers following a second successive Allianz National League Division Two North defeat to Mayo in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Saturday afternoon.
Played on a surface conducive to fast flowing football as squally showers dominated the weather pattern, the hosts held scoreboard supremacy at the midway point of this intriguing contest, but it was the reigning Connacht champions who sealed the victory with a dominant final quarter display which leaves the Lake County striving to achieve their first competitive victory this campaign.
Starting positively, Westmeath were to the green flag fore on three minutes when a Ronan O’Toole strike from distance rebounded from the upright into the willing arms of Luke Loughlin who calmly slotted the ball under the advancing Rob Hennelly to afford an early scoring boost to the Westmeath cause.
An even first half was to follow, both from a possession perspective and on the scoreboard as Westmeath nullified the green three point threat of Mayo with a solid defensive play, breaking from their half at pace on numerous occasions to give the visiting team cause for playing concern.
One such flowing move on 28 minutes resulted in John Heslin netting a penalty. Quick thinking from O’Toole from an awarded free placed James Dolan in possession and following neat interchange with Ger Egan, the forward run of Ronan Wallace was illegally checked by Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor who received a black card for his challenge - the resulting goal edged Westmeath’s lead out to two points as the interval whistle approached.
A further exchange of white flags saw the hosts lead by the minimum as the shrill of the half time whistle reverberated around Cusack Park.
Westmeath were to annex the first score of the second half also, playmaker O’Toole pointing on 39 minutes, but a run of five successive points from the visitors saw James Horan’s charges enjoy a three point lead as the final quarter of the contest fast approached.
A brace of ‘45s’ from Loughlin reduced the deficit but the experienced playing nous of Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor ensured victory for the Connacht team as their accuracy ensured the brace of points ventured west with the All-Ireland finalists of 2020.
Westmeath captain, Kevin Maguire, had a standout tussle with Mayo talisman, O’Connor, the Caulry player having the edge in a duel which resulted in the full forward moving towards the centre of the field to find space in what was a congested Westmeath defence.
O’Connor was to score just one point from play but it was a crucial score in injury time as Westmeath had reduced the scoreboard margin to the minimum with full time looming.
Maguire was ably supported in the full back line by Rosemount clubman, Boidu Sayeh, who nullified the goal threat of the pacey Tommy Conroy as Mayo failed to threaten Jason Daly’s goal over the duration.
Mayo held centrefield sway for the majority of the contest and this supremacy was the fulcrum for numerous point yielding forays into the Westmeath defence.
Heslin was once again Westmeath’s scorer in chief and he was aided by Loughlin in this department on Saturday afternoon.
The remaining forward unit worked effortlessly to create opportunities and will be hoping that their endeavours are duly rewarded on the scoreboard when Down are the visitors to Cusack Park on Saturday afternoon.
Akin to Westmeath, the Ulster team are yet to register a league win (suffering two heavy defeats ) so the hope is that a win for the Lake County would be the timely boost needed before an imminent play-off fixture and the all important Leinster senior football championship clash with Laois on July 4.