Clinical Young adds to Westmeath woes
Laois 2-15 Westmeath 2-9 All-Ireland SHC Qualifier WESTMEATH manager Seamus Qualter accepts his side is facing a relegation play-off following this defeat to Laois in a low-key All-Ireland hurling qualifier at sunny Cusack Park on Saturday evening.
James Young was the difference between the teams, the classy centre-forward scoring a remarkable tally of 1-13, as Laois all but guaranteed their place in next year's Liam McCarthy Cup.
The Lake County face last year's All-Ireland finalists Galway in their final Group A game needing an improbable win to avoid the relegation play-off against the team which finishes bottom of Group B.
"We can either stick our heads in the sand and do nothing or else go to Galway and put on a good performance as a lead-up to the relegation match - it will come down to ourselves and whoever finishes bottom of the other group; I'm a realist," said Qualter.
In the aftermath of Saturday's game, Qualter was highly critical of Limerick referee Jason O'Mahony - although he admitted that he hadn't been the deciding factor.
"It happens to us because the top referees don't referee our games; trainees referee our games.
"He didn't lose the game for us but something will have to be done about the standard of refereeing.
"I'm sick of putting up with second rate referees because we get them all the time," added the Westmeath boss who felt his side were denied a "blatant penalty" in the second half.
Things could have been different for Qualter's men had they managed to take a lead into half-time but an injury time goal from Mark Rooney gave Laois a 1-7 to 1-5 cushion at the break.
Buoyed by that goal, the visitors started the second half strongly and when James Young blasted a 20-metre free to the net five minutes after the restart, Laois never looked back.
There was a lengthy stoppage early in the second half as Laois teenager Zane Keenan sustained a serious shoulder injury after an accidental collision.
He received medical attention on the field for several minutes before eventually being stretchered off.
This break in play combined with other injuries and stoppages led to almost 15 minutes of injury-time being played in the second half but even that was never going to be enough for a Westmeath comeback.
Young really stamped his class on proceedings in the second half, scoring a splendid collection of points from a variety of angles and distances.
Derek McNicholas added a consolation goal for Westmeath in the 79th minute from an acute angle but it wasn't going to deny Laois their first competitive win of the season.
"After we lost to Galway it was unbelievably disheartening," said Laois captain Patrick Mullaney. "The lads knew that there was no way we were going to lose.
"The only reason things went our way today was that we were prepared to fight for it," added the goalkeeper.
SCORERS - Laois: J Young 1-13 (1-8f, 0-1 '65); M Rooney 1-1; M McEvoy 0-1. Westmeath: A Mitchell 0-7 (7f); D McNicholas 1-1; D McCormack 1-0; B Kennedy 0-1.
LAOIS - P Mullaney; B Campion, P Cuddy, J Walsh; C Healy, D Rooney, M McEvoy; J Phelan, J Fitzpatrick; E Meagher, J Young, Z Keenan; T Fitzgerald, M Rooney, D Culleton. Subs: P Russell for Keenan (inj, 48 mins); S Dollard for Meagher (55); W Hyland for Fitzpatrick (60).
WESTMEATH - M Briody; C Jordan, C Murtagh, P Greville; G Gavin, D McCormack, N Gavin; J Shaw, B Connaughton; D McNicholas, B Murtagh, A Mitchell; B Kennedy, D Carty, J Clarke. Subs: E Loughlin for Connaughton (ht); B Smyth for Carty (52); P Gilsenan for Kennedy (56); D Faulkner for Loughlin (inj, 83).
REF - J O'Mahony (Limerick).