League Title for Senior Footballers & Loss for Minor Hurlers
Westmeath teams were out on two fronts on Saturday 8th April with the County Senior Footballers claiming a deserved Division 4 Allianz League Title with a comprehensive 2-24 to 2-11 win over Wexford at Croke Park.
Earlier in the afternoon, Westmeath Minor Hurlers faced Kilkenny at TEG Cusack Park in the opening round of the Leinster Minor Championship . The early exchanges were quite even until the games opening goal from Kilkenny's Niall Brennan in the 15th minute put the visitors 1-4 to 0-2 ahead. After that opening three pointer, Kilkenny dominated matters and led by 1-13 to 0-3 at half time. The second half was all one way traffic with Kilkenny dominating and winning comprehensively by 3-22 to 0-4. Westmeath will have a second chance next Saturday when facing Meath who defeated Wicklow on Saturday. This match will be on Saturday 15th April with time and venue to be confirmed.
Back to Croke Park and it was an entirely different matter as Westmeath powered to a first league title since 2008. With both sides playing in their away colours; green clad Westmeath were far too slick overall and looked a far better outfit than Wexford for large portions of the game.
John Heslin has been a prolific marksman throughout the league was top scorer again with 0-8 while there were impressive performances from Man of the Match Kieran Martin, goalscorer Ger Egan and Paul Sharry. Substitute Shane Dempsey impressed late on and scored Westmeath's second goal in the 67th minute to wrap it up.
Wexford were under pressure for long stretches of the first-half as Westmeath opened them up with some excellent early attacking play.
Wexford had at least one sweeper in their own defence whenever Westmeath probed forward but still couldn't deal with the pace and creativity of the maroon men.
Kelvin Reilly and David Lynch were the only Westmeath forwards who didn't make the score sheet in the opening half.
The sides were level at 0-3 apiece after 11 minutes but Westmeath surged clear from there with an unanswered 1-4 to take control of proceedings.
Heslin scored two points during that burst of scoring while Egan's 17th minute goal arrived from the penalty spot.
Lynch was hauled down by Wexford defender Ronan Devereux for the penalty and Egan, after spotting the 'keeper diving early to the right, curled a low shot to the opposite corner.
Westmeath led 1-7 to 0-3 after 23 minutes though a Wexford goal at that stage from Kevin O'Grady too who took a pass from John Tubritt and evaded three defenders before firing a left footed shot across the 'keeper to the right corner, 1-7 to 1-3.
Westmeath closed out the half strongest with points from Tommy McDaniels, Martin and Sharry to lead 1-11 to 1-4 at the interval.
Wexford needed a storming second-half but it never arrived as Westmeath kept the foot on the gas and secured their first final win at Croke Park since the 2004 Leinster decider.
Martin was excellent throughout and added to his haul after the break while O'Reilly made it onto the score sheet in the 44th minute.
Free-taker Heslin conjured his best form in the final quarter of the game and hit his first points from open play while sub Dempsey nailed a fortunate goal when his shot in from the right was fumbled by the 'keeper.
Wexford sub Donal Shanley pulled a consolation goal back late on for the Model County and finished with 1-2.
Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-8 (0-5f), Ger Egan 1-2 (1-0 pen), Shane Dempsey 1-1, Kieran Martin 0-4, Paul Sharry 0-3, Tommy McDaniels 0-3, John Connellan 0-2, Kelvin Reilly 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: Donal Shanley 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1 45), Kevin O'Grady 1-1, Ciaran Lyng 0-4 (0-3f), PJ Banville 0-2, Michael Furlong 0-1, Daithi Waters 0-1.
WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Kevin Maguire, Mark McCallon, Jamie Gonoud; James Dolan, Killian Daly, Noel Mulligan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry, David Lynch; Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Tommy McDaniels.
Subs: Denis Glennon for Daly (48), Shane Dempsey for McDaniels (52), Denis Corroon for Stone (55), John Egan for Mulligan (57), John Connellan for Martin (62), Callum McCormack for Lynch (66)
WEXFORD: Shane Roche; Ronan Devereux, Jim Rossiter, Michael Furlong; Brian Malone, Eoghan Nolan, Kevin O'Grady; Daithi Waters, Colm Kehoe; John Leacy, Ben Brosnan, Paul Curtis; Ciaran Lyng, John Tubtitt, PJ Banville. Subs: Conor Carty for Curtis (29), Adrian Flynn for Leacy (h/t), Michael O'Regan for Devereux (h/t), Donal Shanley for Brosnan (43), Joey Wadding for Tubritt (51), Tiarnan Rossiter for Nolan (56). Carty black card (63).
Ref: Paul Faloon (Down).