Paidi often spoke of the need to get the ‘rub of the relic’ in order to win games. Unfortunately for Tomas O’ Flatharta and his men lady luck deserted them in the final ten minutes of their opening league encounter against Galway in Cusack Park last Sunday.
The five point winning margin is somewhat flattering to Liam Sammons men. Galway entered the game with the benefit of a tough FBD league final under their belt from the previous week. Without the Corofin contingent, Galway still came to Mullingar with a quality side. Westmeath fielded four debutants (Willie Murtagh, Enda Leonard, Paul Kelly, and Thomas McDaniel ) as well as a number of regulars just returning from injury (John Keane, Michael Ennis, and Dessie Dolan ).
Taking that into consideration the sizable Westmeath following (considering the arctic-like conditions ) were content to be trailing by just two points, 0-7 to 0-5 at the break, with wind advantage to come. Westmeath fell a further point behind and had Paul Bannon stretchered off with a sprained ankle within minutes of the restart.
With Doran Harte outstanding throughout, and John Smith making an immediate impression when introduced, Westmeath began to claw their way back into contention. Dennis Glennon although quiet in the opening half came to life with two sublime points off his left boot to put his side on level terms.
Galway then lost influential midfielder Barry Cullinane to a straight red for an elbow on Dessie Dolan. Finian Hanley and David Reilly had already been replaced on yellow cards. To add to their woes Denis Glennon again found his range with a sweet point to edge the Midlanders in front.
At this stage everything pointed to a valuable win for the home side. That was until disaster struck a minute later. John Keane and Kieran Gavin collided as they attempted to cut out a speculative through ball. The ball spilled free to the waiting Jonathan Ryan and the Galway substitute, in fairness, gave our all-star goalkeeper no chance, with a rocket to the top corner.
That bit of bad luck took the wind from Westmeath’s sails and thereafter Galway again took control. Michael Meehan, although not as sharp as usual throughout, put the final nail in the Westmeath coffin when he added Galway’s second goal. Two late point from Dermot Bannon and Denis Glennon proved to be too little too late.
While a win would have been an invaluable confidence booster, not to mention providing two valuable league points, there are still a number of positives to take from this performance. Thomas McDaniel, particularly in the opening half, showed that he is a quality forward in the making. Still only 18 he marked his debut with three fine points. The other three debutants will improve with experience also.
Doran Harte put in a man of the match display while Dessie, Derek Heavin, and Donie Donoghoe impressed throughout. Denis Glennon hit a purple patch in the second half and showed his undoubted class but we’ll need to see more sustained leadership from him in the upcoming games if we are to maintain our Division 1 status.
On a more worrying note our problem around midfield was again glaringly obvious on Sunday. Martin Flanagan will be sidelined for a number of months following recent surgery (one wonders why this couldn’t have been sorted out last October ) and his absence leaves a big void in that sector. Donie Donoghoe and Paul Bannon worked hard but found the going tough against the physically taller Galway partnership. David Duffy, although introduced, is still a bit off being match fit.
Conceding two goals is not something which will please the Westmeath rearguard ,which has built a reputation of being one of the meanest around. They will no doubt be keen to rectify this in the next fixture away to Derry on February 15.
U21’s in action this weekend
Westmeath u21 footballers get their Leinster championship campaign underway this Saturday against near neighbours Offaly in O’Connor Park Tullamore at 2.30pm. Managed by Tomas O’Flatharta and his selectors Padraig ‘Amby’ Fogarty and David Mitchell, Westmeath can expect to get nothing easy from a highly rated Offaly side.
With that said the Lake County, on paper at least, have a very strong panel to choose from. It would be fitting to mark the ten year anniversary of winning the u21 all-Ireland in 1999 if this team could deliver on their potential.
Hurlers capture Keogh Cup
Westmeath hurlers captured their first silverware of the year with a 7-point winning margin over Carlow in the Keogh Cup final played in Kinnegad on Sunday last. They now face a step up in class as they take on Antrim in the League on Sunday.
Leinster Colleges ‘A’ Action
Three Westmeath schools are in action this weekend in the quarter final stage of the Leinster ‘A’ colleges competition. Moate CS, having outbattled St Pat’s, Navan in their own backyard will be fancied to account for St Peters\Wexford when they meet in The Heath (provisional ) on Saturday at 2pm.
Colaiste Mhuire Mullingar enjoy home advantage as they take on St Mary’s Edenderry in Cusack park on Friday at 2pm while St Joseph’s, Rochfortbridge will be hoping to make their trip to Stillorgan a winning one when the take on St Benildus College on Saturday at 2pm.