A critical Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round robin clash is scheduled for Westmeath, who face Kerry at Cusack Park this Sunday, April 30, throw-in at 3pm.
Despite staging a late rally, Westmeath were beaten 1-23 to 2-17 by Laois at O’Moore Park, with Ross King’s free-taking hugely important for the home team.
The teams were level, 1-8 to 0-11, at the break, with Westmeath left reflecting several wasted scoring opportunities. Most of the damage was done after the restart when Laois seized the initiative, a fact that bothered Westmeath manager Michael Ryan.
“We are disappointed because we had a 15-minute spell in the second half; the way we played in that period you aren't going to win matches,” Ryan remarked in an interview with Midlands 103 Sport.
“I was very disappointed with that spell, we never got going in it, they got five or six points. We never contested then, we came back well at the end, but when you go to sleep for 15 minutes you aren't going to win matches.
“There were 15 or 16 minutes when we went out of the game, we lacked leadership, we didn't do enough up front either. Some of our backs - Aonghus was brilliant, Niall Mitchell did very well, a few players did really well.
“We just didn't do ourselves justice, that is the disappointing thing. The first half was a reflection of the talent and the ability that is in this team, but we spoke about it at half-time. You have to play for 74 or 75 minutes, but we just didn't do that. Ultimately we paid the price.”
Westmeath had started smartly with Niall Mitchell prominent, but Paddy Whelan grabbed an opportunistic goal for Laois. That was a key moment ensuring Laois were eventually able to go in level at the break.
Ryan was adamant Westmeath deserved to be in front at the turnaround. “We should have been, we gave away a poor goal in the first half and we had a few chances and we didn't take them,” he said.
During a hectic finale Robbie Greville and Eoin Price bagged goals for Westmeath, but Laois were able to hold on with King and Aaron Dunphy rifling over vital scores for Eamonn Kelly’s team.
Despite the loss, Ryan was proud that his players battled until the bitter end showing resilience in the closing stages to give Laois a real fright. “We have been speaking about that in training, you never give up until the final whistle, I'm happy about that,” Ryan stated. “I'm happy about a lot of things, but we have plenty of room for improvement.”
Next on the agenda for Westmeath is a revealing game with Kerry, who were beaten by a determined Meath at Pairc Tailteann. Ryan is hopeful that the Midlanders can respond on home turf in their remaining outings against Kerry and Meath.