Dolan destroys luckless Longford
DESSIE DOLAN'S smash-and-grab second-half goal inspired Westmeath to a crucial Midlands derby win over neighbours Longford at Pearse Park.
Dolan's strike was his only clear-cut sight of Longford 'keeper Damien Sheridan's goal in the match, but cometh the hour, cometh the man.
The Lake County stalwart had largely been kept in check by a combination of tight marking by Longford's Dermot Brady and Barry Gilleran, and the home side's midfield dominance – until the 55th minute.
But Dessie reminded everyone watching – 926 hardy souls attended the match – that class will out, even on a sodden pitch in cold, miserable conditions.
Westmeath's Kieran Martin, scorer of his side's first goal 10 minutes earlier, pumped forward a long ball from the midfield area and it was flicked on by Callum McCormack.
Longford's Gilleran jumped high to try and intercept as he had done on a number of occasions earlier, but the pace of the slippery ball caught him out and it fell to Dolan.
The wily forward still had plenty to do, however. Longford goalkeeper Sheridan closed down the angle as best he could but master craftsman Dolan arrowed the ball deftly into the corner of the net.
At a stroke, Longford's second-half graft and grit, which had brought them a 1-6 to 1-4 lead, had come to naught and the visitors had a chance to get something from a game that was slipping away from them.
Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan was thankful for Dolan's goal-poaching skills.
"These guys that score all these important scores, they might be out of it for long periods, but when they get one chance, they make all the difference," said a relieved Flanagan.
"It's very difficult to sum that match up. We dug very deep and we got a win out of it. I suppose Longford will go away thinking they should have won this game and they possibly could have.
"The conditions out there were very, very hard to play in.
"We got a lucky break to get the goal that brought us back into the game, and the second goal was engineered out of conditions more so than anything else. But it's days like this that you're just delighted to get the two points and get off the pitch.
"Whether you deserve it or not, it's all about the result at the end of the day and if we manage to get ourselves into Division 1 this year, I don't think too many will be saying, 'Look, Longford should have beaten you'."
Longford lost by a point in their opening match the previous week and felt they could have won it; yesterday they had enough chances to see off Westmeath but it didn't happen for them again.
Spare a thought for Sean McCormack. He scored 1-7 of his side's 1-8, five of them from frees, but narrowly missed a number of chances, including three from frees in the last five minutes.
McCormack can't be blamed, though, as the only other Longford scorer was Ronan Smyth with a first-half point.
Home team boss Glenn Ryan gave the corner-forward a genuine vote of confidence. "Performance-wise, we didn't do too bad and just similar to last week we came out the wrong side of the results," he said.
"We made a couple of mistakes but we reacted positively and that says a lot for the fellas, that they're not dropping their heads.
"Sean McCormack's a key part of our team, has been, and will continue to be. He's capable of kicking those scores and has done it on numerous occasions for Longford before, and he'll do it again," added Ryan.
Longford made the first big breakthrough of the match in the 28th minute when Francis McGee's angled crossfield pass reached Donal McElligott who fed the ball to McCormack.
Pure determination and skill then enabled McCormack to shrug off tackles by two defenders before he lashed the ball low into Gary Connaughton's net.
The goal put Longford a point ahead at 1-3 to 0-4, and McCormack added a point from a free to leave the half-time score 1-4 to 0-4 in his team's favour.
Both sides made mistakes in passing and suffered turnovers from interceptions, but with players struggling to keep their feet on the soaking wet pitch, that was no surprise.
Longford had most of the possession for the first 10 minutes of the second half but were rocked on their heels when hard-working Martin blazed home a Westmeath goal to level the sides at 1-5 each.
It took another eight minutes for the next score of the game, which was a Longford point via McCormack from a free. But two minutes later 'Dessie the Destroyer' slotted in Westmeath's vital second goal.
Westmeath ground their way home from there, with midfielder John Heslin stepping up to the mark with three points from frees over the final, hectic 12 minutes to break Longford hearts.
A derby win and, most important, a rare away victory leaves Flanagan's men in good shape for the challenges to come.
Referee David Gough booked five Westmeath players and two from Longford and kept a firm grip on the game.
Man of the Match: K Martin (Westmeath)
SCORERS – Westmeath: J Heslin 0-4 (4f); K Martin 1-0; D Dolan 1-0; C McCormack 0-2; D Coroon 0-1. Longford: S McCormack 1-7 (5f); R Smyth 0-1.
WESTMEATH – G Connaughton 7; M McCallon 7, K Gavin 7, K McGuire 7; M Curley 7, P Sharry 7, J Dolan 7; D Coroon 7, J Heslin 7; G Egan 7, C McCormack 7, K Martin 8; R Foley 7, Dessie Dolan 7, D Glennon 7. Subs: P Bannon 6 for Foley (54); D Daly 6 for Coroon (58); Damian Dolan for Martin (66)
LONGFORD – D Sheridan 7; D Brady 7, B Gilleran 7, P Foy 7; J Keegan 7, M Quinn 7, S Mulligan 7; K Diffley 7, M Brady 7; B McElvanney 7, D McElligott 7, P McCormack 7; F McGee 7, R Smyth 7, S McCormack 7. Sub: P Kelly 6 for McCormack (58).
REF – D Gough (Meath).