Masterly McNicholas points way to victory for polished Westmeath
Westmeath 2-17 Laois 1-12, Walsh Cup
A superb performance from Derek McNicholas helped Westmeath to a well-deserved win over Laois.
McNicholas landed 10 points as Westmeath proved too polished for an experimental home side in Borris-in-Ossory. Westmeath hit the front early and led for the entire game, with Laois a dogged force in the game without being too threatening.
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McNicholas hit two frees to help Westmeath into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 12 minutes. Aaron Dunphy opened the Laois account but Niall Mitchell and Darragh Clinton both hit the target to keep Westmeath in the ascendency.
Laois worked their way into the game, helped by frees from Eoin Gaughan (3) and Ryan Mullaney. Willie Dunphy got the hosts back within one, but Joey Boyle tapped home a goal for Westmeath, and they were 1-8 to 0-7 ahead at the break.
McNicholas started the second half with two points and Westmeath were seven clear with 15 minutes to go when Eoin Gaughan cracked a 21-yard free to the net for Laois. Within a minute, Darragh Clinton tapped home after a scramble and Westmeath held on to win from there.
Scorers - Westmeath: D McNicholas 0-10 (7f); D Clinton 1-3 (1f); J Boyle 1-0; C Doyle, D O'Reilly, N Mitchell, E Price 0-1 each. Laois: E Gaughan 1-6 (1-4f); A Dunphy 0-3; W Dunphy 0-2 (1 s/l); R Mullaney 0-1f.
Westmeath - A McHugh; A Clarke, T Doyle, A Ennis; S Clavin, A Craig, J Birmingham; A Cox, D McNicholas; C Doyle, N Mitchell, R Greville; L Varley, D Clinton, E Price. Subs: J Boyle for Varley (30), D O'Reilly for Mitchell (35), L Varley for Birmingham (48), S McGovern for Price (50), J Galvin for Boyle (52), J McCarthy for Varley (64), P Maxwell for Greville (70).
Laois - P Simms; A Connolly, F Flanagan, D Comerford; J Kelly, R Mullaney, E Killeen; FC Fennell, C Comerford; W Dunphy, E Gaughan, A Dunphy; A Bergin, P Keating, J Keyes. Subs: C McEvoy for Killeen (h-t), J Ryan for W Dunphy (41), C Cosgrove for Kelly (52), M Hennessy for Bergin (52), D Hartnett for Mullaney (60), J Phelan for A Dunphy (70).
Ref - J Heffernan (Wexford)