National title success for Westmeath senior footballers as Wicklow challenge awaits

'An rud is annamh is iontach'

Athlone club player Ray Connellan rises highest during Westmeath's Allianz Football League Division 3 final victory over Down at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Athlone club player Ray Connellan rises highest during Westmeath's Allianz Football League Division 3 final victory over Down at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile


Achieving senior football inter county honours is unfortunately a rarity in the Lake County so to attain two such accolades in less than two years is a feat which must be lauded.

TEG Cusack Park Mullingar was the venue for the meeting of Westmeath and Down in the penultimate round robin Allianz National Football League Division 3 fixture on St Patrick's Day, an evenly contested game which ended in scoreboard parity.

For long spells the counties second meeting in two weeks played out in a similar vein, Westmeath gaining scoreboard advantage in the final quarter of a contest which came to life as the minutes progressed.

Played before a sparse attendance in Croke Park, Westmeath returned to the scene of their historic Tailteann Cup victory and fuelled by the memory of that success were determined to return further silverware to the county.

Such a scenario appeared unlikely from the throw-in as Down's free flowing running game gave cause for management concern, the Ulster team in the ascendancy by two points midway through the first half.

Westmeath were proving resilient, successive points from David Lynch and Robbie Forde levelling proceedings on 20 minutes, but Down responded accordingly to ensure their first half possession prowess was reflected on the scoreboard.

A vital moment in the contest arrived on 28 minutes when the industrious Jonathan Lynam palmed a Luke Loughlin pass to the net, the green flag score serving as a major boost for the Lake County who had yet to hit stride in this final fixture.

Not to be momentum dampened, Down replied with three of the final four first half points to ensure the Mourne County held minimum scoreboard sway at the interval.

The victors had to wait until the 44th minute for their opening score of the second half, Moate All Whites talisman Forde pointing a free as the game remained closely contested.

The centrefield pairing of Ray Connellan and Andy McCormack were now coming more to the fore, an exquisite pass from the Athlone club player picking out Conor Dillon whose point on the run once again levelled the game.

The impressive Sam McCartan pointed majestically on 52 minutes and when Down instantaneously replied it seemed that the closing stages of this contest would be an extremely tense affair.

As the game eagerly edged towards its final 10 minutes, Lynam, who had been named in the Sigerson Cup 'Team of the Year' in reflection of his performances with UCD, showed immense composure to find the net with a low drive after being expertly placed in the clear by McCartan.

The goal proved crucial to the game's outcome, deflating Down spirits and allowed Westmeath to play out the game with extreme confidence, the Lake County defenders repelling all offensive forays and providing a fulcrum from which the team were able to add three further points to the scoreboard, Forde's pace and power enabling him to score a handpass point on the run and seal a memorable occasion for Westmeath at GAA HQ.

Thoughts now immediately turn towards the Leinster senior football championship as Westmeath make the short journey to O'Moore Park in Portlaoise to play Wicklow (throw-in, 3.30pm ).

Having imposed a six point defeat on the Garden County during their Division 3 campaign, Westmeath will be favourites to achieve victory in this first round contest and progress to a quarter final meeting with Kildare on April 14.

Advancing to play Kildare will result in five games in as many weeks for the Westmeath players, but winning breeds confidence and should fatigue start to impact the body and mind, it is hoped that momentum attained from the successive stream of victories will allow for strength of character to be shown and a prolonged run in the championship season to come.


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