Westmeath ride their luck to end their league famine
Westmeath 1-12 Laois 0-10
Westmeath rode their luck to overcome 13-man Laois at Cusack Park yesterday to record their first league victory since March 2013 - a wait of almost 23 months.
Before a ball was kicked in this year's Division 2 campaign, Westmeath were rated by most bookmakers as relegation favourites, with Laois just behind them in that dubious pecking order.
In that light, some observers had billed this clash as a relegation four-pointer. In any case, the brace of points garnered by Tom Cribbin's charges could prove crucial.
On a chilly but dry day in Mullingar, James Dolan's goal in additional time at the end of the first half set up Westmeath for a half-time lead of 1-6 to 0-5.
It was a scoreline that flattered Westmeath as Laois had dominated the midfield sector, with John O'Loughlin and Brendan Quigley forming a formidable pairing.
The Westmeath goal came after skipper Ger Egan found Dolan in space and the wing-back finished clinically.
Two Westmeath attackers were shown black cards in the first half - Callum McCormack and John Heslin - on a day when several decisions were questioned by both sides.
The first black card led to the introduction of Paul Sharry, who did not start due to flu.
Donal Kingston was proving a handful at full-forward for Laois, but the excellent Kevin Maguire helped to curb his threat in an intriguing duel.
Backed by the breeze in the second half, Laois drew level in the 58th minute (0-10 to 1-7), when Evan O'Carroll sent over a '45'.
It seemed Tomas O Flatharta's men had the momentum to kick for home, but the visitors failed to score for the remainder as Westmeath clinched victory with five unanswered points.
Laois suffered a blow when Padraig McMahon was shown a second yellow card in the 50th minute. The resulting free was sent over by Ray Connellan and further points followed from Connellan again, substitute David Lynch and the tireless Ger Egan with two.
On 67 minutes, Brendan Quigley was shown a straight red card following an incident around the midfield involving Egan.
There was almost a late twist in the tale in the final minute of normal time when O'Carroll slid the ball to the Westmeath net, but the referee had already blown for a free-out. A goal at that point would have cut Westmeath's lead to the minimum.
In the end, though, wasteful Laois were left to rue a tally of 10 wides, while the Westmeath camp will know they need to improve for the upcoming visit of Galway.
Man of the Match: Kevin Maguire
Scorers - Westmeath: R Connellan 0-5 (5fs), G Egan 0-4 (2fs), J Dolan 1-0, C McCormack, D Lynch, J Heslin (f) 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 0-3 (2fs), E O'Carroll 0-2 (0-1 '45'), J O'Loughlin, D Strong, N Donoher, J Finn, R Munnelly (f) 0-1 each.
Westmeath - D Quinn 6; M McCallon 7, K Maguire 8, J Gilligan 7; K Daly 6, K Martin 7, J Dolan 7; P Holloway 5, D McCormack 5; C McCormack 6, G Egan 7, J Egan 6; R Connellan 6, J Heslin 5, D Glennon 6. Subs: Paul Sharry 7 for C McCormack (BC, 15); L Smyth 6 for Heslin (BC, 35 + 1); J Gonoud 6 for Holloway (h-t); D Daly 6 for D McCormack (52); J Connellan 6 for J Egan (56); D Lynch for Glennon (65).
Laois - G Brody 6; P McMahon 7, M Timmons 6, R Kehoe 6; D Strong 7, G Hanrahan 6, C Boyle 6; B Quigley 7, J O'Loughlin 8; J Finn 6, D Kingston 7, B Sheehan 6; R Munnelly 7, E O'Carroll 7, N Donoher 7. Subs: C Kelly 6 for Finn (50); K Meaney 6 for Sheehan (61); E Keane for O'Carroll (70).
Ref - D Gough (Meath).