Galway 2-9 Westmeath 1-10
Galway grabbed their fifth consecutive win of 2009, and while it is early in the Gaelic football year, Galway will still take encouragement from the manner of their victory.
Just when Westmeath moved a point clear and enjoyed a numerical advantage following Barry Cullinane's dismissal, Galway recovered. For the second week in a row Galway eked out a victory in trying circumstances.
Westmeath had edged into the lead as Galway suffered yellow and red card problems, and though they were in bother, they still persevered.
Substitute Jonathan Ryan blasted a goal to alter the contest's complexion before Michael Meehan added a second to ensure Galway escaped unblemished.
A scrappy match throughout, Galway's superior forward line was ultimately the difference between the teams.
"We played our best football after the sending-off,” said manager Liam Sammon. “ But that's often the case when a team goes down to 14 men. We opened them up well and the goals were well taken. Jonathan Ryan showed great confidence for the first goal. The second goal was a great pass from Joe Bergin into Mikey Meehan who dispatched it clinically, which he can do."
Those two goals essentially divided the protagonists. Galway were backed by a first half breeze, but only went in two ahead at the interval, 0-7 to 0-5. Despite Westmeath's resilience Galway had created a couple of gilt-edged opportunities inside, but Gary Connaughton was brave between the sticks. And when Nicky Joyce was fouled after 12 minutes by John Keane in the square, Meehan pointed the penalty.
Meehan then nudged Galway further ahead, but the midlanders responded with real grit. Talented teenager Thomas McDaniel, Dessie Dolan, and Dennis Glennon all landed points to restore parity. The menacing Glennon banged over another and suddenly Galway appeared to be in deep trouble.
David Reilly and Finian Hanley were yellow carded, Cullinane was dismissed, but Galway dug in as Ryan announced his arrival with an opportunistic goal. Darren Mullahy thumped a ball inside, and as neither Francis Boyle nor Keane collected Ryan was able to rattle the Westmeath net. Paul Conroy and Meehan embellished Galway's advantage with points before the second major sealed the deal.
Galway: P Doherty; N Coyne, F Hanley, D Reilly; G Bradshaw, D Blake, D Mullahy; B Cullinane, G O'Donnell; P Conroy (0-1 ), P Joyce (0-1 ), J Bergin; C Bane (0-1 ), M Meehan (1-5, 3fs, 1pen ), N Joyce (0-2 ). Subs: S Armstrong for Bane (41 mins ), A Faherty for Doherty (44 mins ), M Lydon for Reilly (48 mins, yellow ), J Ryan (1-0 ) for N Joyce (49 mins ), D Finnegan for Hanley (50 mins ).