Westmeath’s U21 footballers did just about enough to put Kildare to the sword in Cusack Park last Saturday. Leading 1-5 to 0-3 at the break and clearly the better team, it looked as though the home side would enjoy a comfortable victory. Indeed, had the forwards not dropped seven shots into the goalie’s hands and missed a number of clear-cut scoring chances, then this game could have been well and truly in the bag by half time.
Yet a single point from the boot of the impressive John Heslin was all the Lake County men could add in the second half. Kildare chipped away at the lead to leave just three points separating the sides with twelve minutes remaining. It was a nervous time for the home support and there was an audible sigh of relief when an effort by Kildare substitute Danny Egan rebounded off the crossbar. A goal at that time would have levelled matters but thankfully it never materialised and Westmeath hung on for victory. Kildare didn’t do themselves any favours by having two men sent off in the final few minutes.
A win is a win as they say and in championship football all that matters is getting to the next round. While the failure to turn possession into scores was the main talking point after the game, if this problem can be addressed then this Westmeath side will take beating.
Darren Quinn was solid in goals and managed to keep a clean sheet. The full-back line of Ben Moran, Kevin McGuire, and Ronan Doyle were tight and tenacious, keeping their Kildare full-forward line to just one point from play.
Kieran Martin impressed in his new role at centre-back, while Ger Egan and Mark McCallan were able lieutenants on either side.
Denis Coroon and in particular John Heslin ensured that Westmeath had the edge at midfield. Heslin is certainly a fine midfield prospect for the coming years at senior level if he remains injury free and avoids any temptations to head Down Under.
Up front Westmeath are not lacking in talent, on paper at least. However we will have to become more clinical if we are to get the better of The Royals in a home game on Saturday week. John Egan covered plenty of ground from centre forward while Callum McCormack helped himself to three points from full-forward. James Durkin, despite a somewhat subdued performance, did bag the all important goal after 27 minutes.
Westmeath are in a good situation going into their quarter-final meeting knowing that they have plenty of room for improvement. A good turnout can be expected when we welcome our near neighbours to Cusack Park on March 6, the day before the senior sides clash in round 3 of the national football league. With an improved performance there is every reason to be optimistic.
Athlone IT bid for Sigerson Cup glory
The footballers of Athlone Institute of Technology have had to forego any rag-week celebrations this week as they prepare for the Sigerson Cup which takes place in Maynooth this weekend.
Having beaten Sligo IT by a single point in the quarter-final they now face UCC in the semi-final today (Friday ) at 12pm. Hosts Maynooth who unexpectedly knocked out a fancied UUJ side now take on DCU in the other semi final.
AIT, under the guidance of Ed Byrnes will wear the underdogs tag but have enough of talent and experience to cause an upset.
With players of the calibre of Gary Connaughton, Paul Bannon, Mark McCallan, Kieran Duncan, Longford’s Ger Dennigan and Smith, Offaly’s John Reynolds, and Cavan sharpshooter Ray Galligan amongst others in their ranks, it will take a good team to beat them.
Wexford prove too strong for our hurlers
Westmeath welcomed Wexford to Cusack Park last Sunday for their opening Division 2 league encounter. Hopes were high that following their recent Keogh Cup success, Kevin Martin’s men could spring a surprise. The home side started brightly and led 0-4 to 0-1 after 10 minutes.
Yet Wexford have their eyes set firmly on promotion and hit eight points without reply in the ten minutes before the break to hold a seven point half-time lead.
Westmeath to their credit continued to battle away and reduced the gap to just four points midway through the second half. Jim Berry sealed matters for the visitors when he found the Westmeath net.
In the end nine points was the difference between the sides. Kevin Martin and co will be slightly disappointed by the performance but have a chance to get back to winning ways when they travel to Carlow this weekend. Carlow ran Antrim to just one point last week so are sure to provide a stern challenge. Westmeath won’t be lacking motivation and should get their first two points of their campaign.