Wednesday 21 February 2018

Westmeath hit sluggish Louth for six

Win, lose or draw, challenge matches probably don't impinge too much on Colin Kelly's sleep patterns, but a few pertinent facts will gnaw ever so slightly on the Louth boss between now and Sunday week's Leinster opener against Wicklow at Parnell Park.

An exhibition match to showcase Dreadnots' new dressing room and gym complex, it's fair to say Westmeath provided most of the entertainment on Sunday, easily condemning the Reds to their fifth defeat on the trot.

Three of those losses were in 'friendly' games and Kelly fielded a second string side against Sligo in the League, but after developing a valuable winning habit early in the season, he will be keen to see his team arrest their slide sooner rather than later.

His first priority will be to shore up a leaky defence, which coughed up three goals apiece to Armagh and Tipperary in recent weeks and then shipped six more on Sunday.

Louth largely facilitated - if not gifted - all of Westmeath's six majors, with resigned calls of 'too easy' uttered by sun-kissed spectators along the touchline,

Coming on the back of an excellent Division 4 campaign and a thumping win over Wexford in the final, Westmeath were still in tip-top shape for their trip east, offering a gentle reminder as to just why they reached the last two Leinster finals.

Of course, avoiding Dublin is now a pre-requisite in any county's quest to make the provincial decider, and while Tom Cribben's troops don't have that luxury this year, they certainly look good enough to dispose of Offaly in the quarter-finals.

They pretty much put this game to bed inside 12 minutes, racing into a 2-2 to 0-3 lead, and if Louth still harboured any hopes of turning the tables in the second-half, they were wiped out by a third Westmeath goal in the 25th minute.

With Conall McKeever tried out as a replacement for the departed Derek Maguire, the Louth defence looked to be suffering from a touch of heat stroke in the early stages as Westmeath danced through the cover almost at will.

They were already 0-2 to 0-1 up when John Heslin and Mark McCallon combined to send Shane Dempsey clear, and the St Loman's man gave an exposed Criag Lynch no chance.

If that goal was well-worked from Westmeath's point of view, they didn't have to do much to carve a static Louth defence open for the second. It arrived just three minutes later when Kelvin Reilly burst through for another simple finish.

Louth steadied the ship with points from Eoin O'Connor and Paraic Smith in front of his home crowd, but Heslin kept Westmeath ticking with a couple of frees and they moved nine points clear when the lively Jon Conellan sent Dempsey through for his second goal, 3-5 to 0-5.

Louth managed to reduced the gap to seven at the interval 3-6 to 0-8, but they had it all to do in the second period.

But both sides picked up where they left off after the break, with Westmeath making all the running.

The goals didn't flow quite as freely, but they struck their fourth midway through the half when John Heslin capitalised on some more poor defending by the home side.

Seconds later the ST LOman's man had Craig Lynch stooping to fetch the ball from his net once more.

After making several changes Louth looked brighter in attack in the final quarter and Eoin O'Connor fired home the goal of the game, which along with an Anthony Williams took some of the bad look off the scoreline.

But Westmeath didn't let up and a sixth goal from David Lynch underlined their superiority.

Coupled with defeats to Monaghan and Longford it hasn't been a glowing mid-term break for Louth, but it will all be a distant memory if they can get back to winning ways against Wicklow on Sunday week.

WESTMEATH: Kevin Fagan; Jamie Gonoud, Kevin Maguire, Mark McCallon; David Lynch 1-0, Frank Boyle, Killian Daly; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Shane Corcoran, Paul Sharry 0-3 (2f), Kelvin Reilly 1-0; Shane Dempsey 2-1, John Heslin 2-5 (5f), John Connellan 0-3. Subs: Paddy Fagan 0-1, John Egan 0-1, Denis Glennon 0-1.

LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Padraig Rath, Patrick Reilly, Anthony Williams 1-0; Kevin Carr, Darren McMahon, James Stewart 0-1; Tommy Durnin, James Califf; Declan Byrne 0-3, Paraic Smith 0-2, Bevan Duffy 0-1; Conall McKeever, Eoin O'Connor 1-3, Ronan Holcroft. Subs: Darren Marks for K Carr, Ryan Burns 0-4f for R Holcroft, Eimhin Keenan for J Califf, Ruairi Moore for McKeever, Ross Nally for P Smith, Adrian Reid for D Byrne, Sam Mulroy 0-1 for T Durnin, Ciaran Downey for A Williams.

REFEREE: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

Drogheda Independent

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