Relief as Westmeath scrape through

Westmeath's Martin Flanagan contests a kick out with Wicklow's Thomas Walsh during last weekend’s Leinster Championship game in Tullamore. Photo: John O'Brien.

Westmeath's Martin Flanagan contests a kick out with Wicklow's Thomas Walsh during last weekend’s Leinster Championship game in Tullamore. Photo: John O'Brien.

Westmeath 0-16

Wicklow (AET ) 1-10

O’Connor Park Tullamore has been the venue for quite a few classic encounters involving Westmeath teams in recent years. One thing for sure is that last Sunday’s clash with Wicklow will not be making its way onto that list. There is no denying that it was poor fare, a fact compounded by televising the game live.

Yet championship football is not always about playing nice football, it’s about getting the job done and getting a win. There is no doubt but that it is better to play bad and win than play well and lose.

This was never going to be a classic and it was never going to be easy for the Lake County. Micko’s men already had a good win over Longford under their belts and were at full strength. Westmeath for their part had lost all seven games in the league and were starting with three debutants and a few more players had question marks hanging over them. Neutral observers might have expected Westmeath to win easily, but anyone close to the team were a lot more worried about the outcome.

I always remember Luke Dempsey’s advice that one should always take some positives out of a game, no matter how bad the performance. Thankfully there are a number of positives.

Firstly Conor Lynam’s performance belied his tender years. Last week I spoke of the need to unearth new talent up front in order to increase our scoring threat. Lynam marked his senior debut with a haul of four points from play - an impressive return from last year’s minor captain. Regardless of how things go against Dublin, he has shown that he has much to offer in a maroon and white jersey in the coming years.

The second big positive(no pun intended ) was the return of David O’Shaughnessy to midfield. Shocco has been hampered by injury for much of the last few seasons and there were many who doubted he would ever make it back to county action. The Garrycastle clubman steadied what looked like a sinking ship when introduced, and won some vital possession around the midfield sector.

If he can stay clear of injury he is sure to start against Dublin and this would be a major plus.

Martin Flanagan, Damien Healy, Michael Ennis, and Dessie Dolan all saw action for the first time in a while. All four looked well off the pace but will improve for the experience. The biggest concern all Westmeath folk have is whether they can improve enough in just a fortnight. If we are to cause an upset on June 28 we will need this quartet leading from the front.

Gary Connaughton will be kicking himself for dropping the high ball that led to Wicklow’s goal but the Tubberclare man made amends with a fine penalty save. The fullback line was a bit looser than usual early on but tightened up as the game went on. Frank Boyle chipped in with a point and received the RTE man of the match award.

The half back-line were under a lot of pressure all through. Debutant Willie Murtagh will improve for the experience but is unlikely to start against Dublin. Donie Donoghoe never fully got going while Derek Heavin will be hoping his shoulder injury will have cleared before the semi-final.

David Duffy and Martin Flanagan were fighting a losing battle until the introduction of David O’Shaughnessy. Flanagan is unlikely to last the pace at midfield but could be a serious threat at the edge of the square.

Keith Scally had a quiet debut at wing forward before being replaced. John Smith had a massive game particularly in the second half. The Downs man covered every blade and won an amount of breaking ball, and also made one vital block.

Doran Harte played his usual defensive game from number 12 and was unlucky to be replaced.

Fergal Wilson chipped in with five points including the all important equalizer. Denis Glennon was still our main threat up front but the Tyrrellspass man will be hoping for a bigger performance against the Dubs. Conor Lynam made a dream debut in the other corner.

Ennis, Dolan, Healy, and O’Shaughnessy were all introduced and are likely to start the next day. John Connellan didn’t do anything wrong when introduced and is likely to see action at some stage against Dublin.

Roscommon v Mayo

Roscommon face a difficult task when they take on Mayo in the Connacht SFC in Castlebar on Saturday at 5pm. Having beaten Leitrim in the previous game this will be a significant step up in class. Mayo will be the warmest of favourites. O’Donnell’s men will travel in the hope of causing an upset but it is difficult to see them progressing to the Connacht final.


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