Sunday 22 July 2018

Royals mull over missed opportunity

St Loman's 0-13 Simonstown Gaels 1-8

Sean Wall

The first-ever Leinster SFC success over neighbours Meath in 2015 was a watershed day for Westmeath football and they have thrived on it since.

Earlier this year the Lake County dumped Meath out of the U-21 Championship and on Sunday their county representatives denied their Royal counterparts a place in the provincial Club SFC decider at a damp Cusack Park.

St Loman's Mullingar won this energy-sapping encounter the hard way after allowing Colm O'Rourke's charges surge into a seven-point lead in the opening quarter. Simonstown played some of their best football of the year in those opening passages, but they were unable to maintain that level of intensity long enough to clinch a final spot.

They were in contention right until the final whistle, even if the signs were ominous after the hosts opened up a three-point advantage with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining. Such were the conditions, it was a sizeable lead at that stage of proceedings and one which Simonstown were unable to peg back.

It wasn't for the want of trying and the difference was back to the minimum by the 54th minute. However, the slow-starting Mullingar men finished the stronger as some of Simonstown's big guns simply ran out of steam.

Following that whirlwind start to proceedings, Simonstown lost their way for a spell in that opening half but should have been ahead by more than 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.

Simonstown encountered similar problems at the start of the second half to what St Loman's experienced in the first and the half was 21 minutes old before they added to their opening-half tally.

Going so long without a score hurt their hopes greatly as St Loman's hit six points in that same period to take control of proceedings.

The home side started with regular midfielder Sean Flanagan at full back and David Windsor accompanying Paul Sharry at midfield. However, talisman and captain John Heslin moved out around the middle as the game threatened to get out of reach.

Hesitancy by Simonstown keeper Robbie Burlingham almost allowed Ronan O'Toole in for an early goal, but the centre forward only found the side netting.

Simonstown's captain Padraig McKeever opened the scoring from a free and Nathan O'Brien added a second point on five minutes.

Simonstown should have had more on the scoreboard before Mark McCabe picked his spot for a goal on 11 minutes in a move that was started by Seamus Kenny and continued by Niall Kane.

Brian Conlon, a fisted effort, and McKeever from long range added to Simonstown's tally before Ken Casey opened St Loman's account.

They then added three further points before livewire O'Brien responded for Simonstown and their last point of the half from Sean Tobin left it 1-6 to 0-4.

A point from play and then a free by Heslin left Loman's within striking distance at the break.

Shane O'Rourke played some superb football for Simonstown in that opening half, while Shane Gallagher and Niall Kane were particularly impressive in defence.

The second half was 11 minutes old before the hosts started eating into the Simonstown lead as Heslin converted another free. Heslin had spurned a few earlier chances and the Westmeath champions had Sean Flanagan black-carded on 37 minutes.

Corner forward Shane Dempsey pointed when he might have goaled and it was Heslin who gained parity for his side from an awkward free on 43 minutes.

Substitute Conrad Reilly pointed St Loman's ahead on 48 minutes and the lead stretched to three following further points from Paul Sharry and Heslin (free).

A fisted point from O'Rourke ended Simonstown's scoring drought and it was followed by a Conor Sheridan effort to reduce the gap to the minimum.

Both teams gave it their all in the closing stages, which included five minutes of added time, but the only other score was a fisted point from Kieran Lynam.

Simonstown pressed hard to save the game but were unable to manufacture a score against opponents who had a little more in the tank when it mattered most.

ST LOMAN'S: Jason Daly; Neil O'Toole, Sean Flanagan, Gerry Grehan; Gary Glennon, Paddy Dowdall, Jason O'Toole; Paul Sharry 0-2 (1f), David Windsor; Kelvin, Reilly, Ronan O'Toole, Kieran Kilmurray; Ken Casey 0-1, John Heslin 0-6 (5f), Shane Dempsey 0-2. Subs: Kieran Lynam 0-1 for Kilmurray (29), Conrad Reilly 0-1 for Flanagan (BC 37), Gareth Hickey for Windsor (50), David Whelan for O'Toole (59), Billy O'Loughlin for Casey (60+)

SIMONSTOWN GAELS: Robbie Burlingham; Shane Gallagher, Stephen Moran, Niall McMahon; Brian McGrath, Brian Conlon 0-1, Niall Kane; Shane O'Rourke 0-1, James Kilcullen; Sean Tobin 0-1, Seamus Kenny, Mark McCabe 1-0; Nathan O'Brien 0-2, Conor Sheridan 0-1, Padraig McKeever 0-2 (1f). Subs: Joe Lyons for Kenny, Mark Gardiner for McMahon (both 46), Nicky O'Brien for Kilcullen (50), Mickey Brennan for Sheridan (55), Shane Barry for Tobin (58).

REF: Fergal Kelly (Longford)

Drogheda Independent