Westmeath senior footballers have a prime opportunity to rid the memories of Leinster championship 2021 following the county’s semi-final draw pairing with Kildare.
The Lake County earned a deserved place in the final four of the provincial championship following a comprehensive victory over Longford, a contest which was played in rain sodden conditions on the vast green swathe of TEG Cusack Park Mullingar on Saturday evening.
Dominant in the main over the duration of this quarter final fixture, Westmeath emerged with an eight point victory, the team growing in confidence as the game progressed, despite a slow start to proceedings.
The visitors enjoyed an opening period of superiority and were to the fore by a three point margin on 10 minutes before points from Alex Gardiner, John Heslin and the impressive Nigel Harte ensured the hosts enjoyed a five point lead on 25 points.
The lead was deservedly extended on 28 minutes when a shot from Gardiner was parried into the path of scoring talisman Heslin who finished with aplomb to raise Westmeath’s first green flag of the contest.
The St Loman’s full forward added a further point as half time approached ensuring Jack Cooney’s charges were in total control on the interval scoreboard.
The second half continued in a similar vein, the deteriorating weather conditions not impacting on Westmeath’s performance and when substitute Ronan O’Toole scored the Lake County’s second goal on 49 minutes to stretch out the lead to 12 points, the win was virtually assured.
A lull period ensued - one which will be of concern to the management team prior to the semi-final fixture - before Ray Connellan stemmed the mini Longford revival on 64 minutes with a majestic score on the run.
Substitute Lorcan Dolan then fisted a point before fellow replacement Robbie Forde, making his full senior championship debut, finished a flowing move to the net much to the rapture of the Westmeath faithful in attendance.
An eight point victory sealed, Cooney and his management team are certain to be pleased with many aspects of the players’ performance. The half back line in particular were the fulcrum for many rewarding forays into the Longford defence while Connellan and Jonathan Lynam held sway in centrefield.
Most impressive was the swift movement of possession through the lines with Westmeath players always available to receive a pass from a colleague and thinking of the best manner in which to positively impact the game.
The team performed as a unit with the introduced substitutes also contributing to the Saturday evening success - similar attributes will be required when Westmeath take to the Croke Park surface to play Kildare on Sunday, May 15!