Heslin and Egan lead the way as Westmeath rout Wexford
Westmeath 2-24 Wexford 2-11 - Allianz NFL Division Four Final
Westmeath crushed Wexford's reserve side by 24 points two weeks ago to secure promotion to Division 3. Two minutes from the end of normal time in this final at Croke Park on Saturday night they led by 17 points against Wexford's first-choice team.
By the time the final whistle sounded Wexford had reduced the deficit to a marginally more respectable 13 points after substitute Donal Shanley hit 1-2, which along with Kevin O'Grady brilliant individual first-half goal were the only redeeming features of a woeful performance from the Model County.
"They were far superior all over the pitch," acknowledged Wexford manager Seamus McEnaney. "We just weren't good enough, didn't play well enough. No excuses."
For Westmeath it was an evening to remember, though the scenes at the final whistle were understandably more subdued than on the last occasion they won silverware at Croke Park - their historic Leinster final triumph in 2004.
It was the first trophy they had won a senior trophy since beating Dublin in the Division 2 final in Navan nine years ago.
Right from the start Wexford had difficulty winning their own kick-out. Despite pulling bodies behind the ball they couldn't prevent the opposition wing-backs and midfielders pouring through the centre.
It was only a matter of time until their overworked defence collapsed. Westmeath hit an unanswered 1-4 between the 15th and 20th minutes to establish a nine-point lead.
The goal came via a penalty from captain Ger Egan after James Dolan was hauled down by Paul Curtis, who surprisingly escaped any censure.
Though O'Grady's 23rd-minute goal briefly halted the Westmeath onslaught, by half-time they were 1-11 to 1-4 ahead and in cruising.
The second half continued in the same vein, notable for Wexford's cynical approach - they picked up six bookings and were reduced to 14 men in the 62nd minute - when substitute Conor Carty was black-carded they had used their six replacements.
Westmeath's full-forward line of Kieran Martin (4), John Heslin (3) and Tommy McDaniels (3) scored ten points from play between them; Heslin confirmed his position as the top individual scorer in the competition as his ten-point haul took his total for the season to 3-50.
Beaten finalists in the Leinster Championship for the last two season, Westmeath are on a roll again.
"I think we're set up nicely to prepare properly for the Championship," said manager Tom Cribbin.
Wexford, by contrast, have a lot of work to do ahead of their first-round encounter against Carlow.
Scorers - Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (5fs), G Egan 1-2 (1-0 pen), K Martin 0-4, S Dempsey 1-1, P Sharry, T McDaniels 0-3 each, J Connellan 0-2, K Reilly 0-1. Wexford: C Lyng 0-4 (3fs), D Shanley 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1 '45'), K O'Grady 1-1, PJ Banville 0-2, M Furlong, D Waters 0-1 each.
Westmeath - D Quinn 7, K Maguire 7, M McCallon 7 J Gonoud 7; J Dolan 8 K Daly 6, N Mulligan 7; A Stone 7 G Egan 9, K Reilly 7, P Sharry 8, D Lynch 6; K Martin 8 J Heslin 8, T McDaniels 8. Subs: D Glennon 7 for Daly (48), S Dempsey 8 for McDaniels (51), D Corroon 6 for Stone (55), J Egan 6 for Mulligan (57), J Connellan 7 for Martin (61), C McCormack 6 for Lynch (66).
Wexford - S Roche 6; R Devereux 5, J Rossiter 7, M Furlong 6; B Malone 6, E Nolan 6, J Leacy 5; D Waters 6, C Kehoe 5; K O'Grady 7, B Brosnan 5, P Curtis 5; C Lyng 6 J Tubritt 5, PJ Banville 6. Subs: C Carthy 5 for Curtis (30), A Flynn 5 for Leacy (ht), M O'Regan 5 for Devereux (ht), D Shanley 7 for Brosnan (42), J Wadding 5 for Tubritt (50),T Rossiter 5 for Nolan (56).
Ref - P Faloon (Down).