With all the pressure on the home side to get a result against an experimental Westmeath side already assured of promotion, Derry left nothing to chance with a clinical 15 point win in this final round tie. The result brought to an end Westmeath’s unbeaten run and ensures that Derry will be joining the Lake County in the top tier next year. Before then of course the same two sides will be contesting the division 2 decider in GAA headquarters on April 28 in what should be a much more keenly contested affair.
Brian McIver’s side began the brighter and were three points to the good before Dessie Dolan opened the scoring for the visitors. A first-half injury-time penalty gave the Oak Leaf County a 1-6 to 0-3 half time cushion.
Eoin Bradley and Lee Kennedy extended the lead after the restart before Paul Sharry hit back with a well taken goal. A second converted penalty put the outcome beyond doubt and from there to the final whistle Derry outscored the visitors by nine points to two.
The extent of the defeat is somewhat surprising but few counties would be competitive in the absence of 10 first choice players. It’s also asking a lot when 10 players who haven’t seen much game time are thrown in at the deep end at the one time. On a positive note David Duffy put in another fine performance at midfield while Dessie Dolan and Paul Sharry got more game time under their belts.
Westmeath supporters will be wishing talented full-back Kieran Gavin a speedy recovery after a work-related injury and will be hoping he recovers in time for the league decider in a fortnight’s time. Derry are warm favourites to win the decider but with a full strength team I expect Pat Flanagan’s men to push them all the way in the re-match.