WESTMEATH 1-16 WICKLOW 2-8
A much needed brace of points were annexed in the surrounds of a rain sodden TEG Cusack Park Mullingar on Sunday afternoon as Westmeath retrieved a five point half time deficit to defeat Wicklow in their opening Allianz National Football League Division 3 fixture.
Firm favourites prior to the throw-in, Westmeath were slow to gain in game momentum and two first quarter goals by the Garden County saw the visitors to Mullingar enjoy a thoroughly deserved eight point lead a s the midway point of the first half fast approached.
The early loss though injury of captain, Kevin Maguire, appeared to impact as Westmeath’s defence remained under Wicklow pressure but when his replacement Nigel Harte pointed it seemed to settle Jack Cooney’s charges and further white flag first half moments from the influential John Heslin, David Lynch and Luke Loughlin ensured the home team were in scoreboard contention as the game ventured towards the interval, the dismissal of Wicklow’s Rory Stokes, adding fresh impetus to the Lake County cause.
With the rapidly deteriorating weather elements in their second half favour, Westmeath were in possession and territorial ascendancy for the remainder of the contest and when the impressive Sam McCartan levelled proceedings with a trademark run and green flag finish on 40 minutes, momentum favoured the Lake County for an opening league campaign win.
Substitute, Lorcan Dolan, placed the hosts in front for the first time on 50 minutes, but Wicklow displayed shoots of tenacity, custodian, Mark Jackson, sending over two points to remain in scoreboard contention.
The hosts numeric supremacy was to come to the fore as the game inched through the final quarter, scores from Alex Gardiner, Heslin, Loughlin, Harte and Dolan ensuring Westmeath sealing a five point success when such an outcome appeared most unlikely come the shrill of the half time whistle.
A character laden second half performance, team management will be pleased with certain aspects of Westmeath’s play and will be focusing on the positives prior to the Lake County’s weekend fixture in Portlaoise, a confident Laois providing the opposition in O’Moore Park on Sunday afternoon (throw-in, 2pm ).
Fresh from their O’Byrne Cup final appearance and five point success over Louth this past weekend, Westmeath’s Leinster rivals will provide a stern test as the Lake County strive for successive league victories and an opportunity to cement a position of supremacy in the division table.