Westmeath progress to O'Byrne Cup final following narrow victory over Offaly
Westmeath 1-9 Offaly 1-7
Westmeath progressed to next Sunday’s Bord na Mona O'Byrne cup final after doing just enough against neighbours Offaly in TEG Cusack Park.
It was far from straight forward for the home side however. Having looked out of the running at half-time, Offaly produced a much improved second half showing that made the locals nervous coming down the home straight. However, Colin Kelly's Westmeath kept the Faithful men at bay to set up another local derby against Meath in Portlaoise next Sunday.
The first half was littered with errors but Westmeath dominated the early exchanges.
They were playing with the wind after after the opening nine minutes had passed without seeing a point from either side, the home team notched two points inside a minute. Luke Loughlin landed a free before Ger Egan followed up with a nice score from tight angle.
Loughlin added another before Offaly struck back. Westmeath looked to have a high dropping ball under control but Egan’s touch diverted the ball into the path of Joe O'Connor who finished well to the net to tie the game up.
Stephen Wallace's side took the lead through a Nigel Dunne free on 20 minutes but the home side would take over from there and outscore Offaly by 1-4 to 0-2 on the run in to half time.
Denis Corroon enjoyed a fine first half and he grabbed their goal. He got on the end of a clever Kieran Martin pass to finish smartly to the net.
Egan, Corroon, Loughlin and Callum McCormack also tapped over scores. And it might have gotten even better had James Dolan been able to connect after confusion in the Offaly area saw the ball squirm across the goal line and Offaly's blushes were spared.
The visitors continued to struggle in attack with Boidu Sayeh in particularly defiant form and they could only manage two Dunne frees in reply, meaning they went in at the break trailing by 1-7 to 1-2, having not managed to score a point from play.
Westmeath opened the scoring on the restart through the excellent Kieran Martin who turned in a man of the match performance after being switched to defence from the full forward line.
However that six-point lead was quickly cut to two. Bernard Allen grabbed their first from play on 47 minutes and three more followed in the next ten minutes to cut the gap to two, with schoolboy starlet Cian Johnson getting in on the scoring act.
Offaly would miss some gilt edged chances in this period and when Finbar Coyne fisted over a point it gave them the breathing space they needed to progress to a first O'Byrne cup final since 2005.
SCORERS - Westmeath: D Corroon 1-1, L Loughlin 0-3 (2f), J Egan 0-2, C McCormack, K Martin, F Coyne 0-1 each.
Offaly: J O’Connor 1-0, C Johnson, N Dunne (2f) 0-2 each, J Hayes, M Brazil, B Allen 0-1 each.
Westmeath: E Carberry; K Daly, S Duncan, M McCallon; J Dolan, B Sayeh, N Mulligan; A Stone, D Corroon; A Gardiner, L Loughlin, N Scally; C McCormack, K Martin, J Egan SUBS: F Coyne for Scally (HT), F Boyle for Stone (60), G Leech for Martin (65), C Slevin for Gardiner (70).
Offaly: P Dunican; D Brady, P McConway, S Pender; D Dempsey, C Donoghue, J Lalor; C McNamee, S Nally; J Hayes, A Sullivan, J O’Connor; B Allen, N Dunne SUBS: C Johnson for Doyle, M Brazil for Sullivan (both HT), B O’Dea for McNamee (45), A O’Sullivan for O’Connor (58), S Tierney for Allen (65).
Referee: D Hickey (Carlow).