Tribesmen up and running in easy victory
Galway 3-27 Westmeath 0-19
A memorable weekend for the Donoghue brothers from Clarinbridge. On Saturday evening at Croke Park, Liam Donoghue was part of the Mayo coaching team which won the Nicky Rackard Cup for the first time, while yesterday Micheál made a successful bow in the championship in charge of his native Galway.
Westmeath's shock win over Kilkenny in the Leinster U-21 Championship recently meant that Galway's border police were on high alert for another ambush, but the Tribesmen were never troubled.
They knew the only way to deal with a threat like that was to shatter the underdog's spirit early doors and they did just that with four points in the opening five minutes.
Indeed, the 24 points Galway beat them by in 2006 would have been attainable had Westmeath goalkeeper Paddy Maloney not produced stunning saves to deny Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn and Joe Canning all inside the opening 10 minutes.
Canning, no doubt benefitting from the rest which Portumna's relatively early exit from the Galway championship last autumn afforded him, looked strong and fast and seems set for a big summer.
He had the tie wrapped up with 0-8 - three from frees, a 65, a trademark sideline and a couple from play - before his game was brought to a premature halt five minutes after the restart in an off-the-ball incident which resulted in Westmeath corner-back Shane Power being red-carded.
Westmeath, having trailed 0-17 to 0-5 at the break, had no chance of a recovery after that and soon the goals started coming, leaving manager Michael Ryan fairly frustrated by the end. "We'd be disappointed with our performance. We know Galway are an exceptional team, but there was a stage in the first half when we'd five wides in a row, the score was nine-three, and then of course there was a silly sending off in the second half.
"Galway don't need help like that. I didn't see it, but I'm disappointed by it. I'm not a fan of those things.
"Our touch was a bit off, maybe we were a bit over-awed and their physique certainly bothered us. We feel there is much more in the team," said Ryan.
Donoghue said Canning was not concussed and will be fine for the next round against Offaly after being taken off as a precaution.
"He's fine. I didn't see the incident. Obviously, it was the recommendation of the doctor that he came off. I think it's a neck injury. He's fine in the dressing room there."
Donoghue also expects Cathal Mannion and Daithi Burke to recover in time to play Offaly in two weeks and he was pleased enough with the display produced by a starting 15, all of whom had championship experience under their belt.
"We're up and running, put up a decent score. On reflection, we probably got a lot more from the first half in terms of what we're looking for. When we look back on the game and review it, there was a lot of the second half that we need to improve on.
"They had a great win with their Under 21s and they had three games in the round robin. Coming in for ourselves, we had to make sure we were in the right frame of mind and in fairness, the lads worked very hard for the last two weeks and came well prepared today."
Maloney's heroics between the posts kept Galway at bay initially but they were on top in just about every position on the field and that wasn't long being reflected on the scoreboard.
The Tribesmen went in leading by 0-17 to 0-5 and once Westmeath were reduced to 14 men, it was inevitable the goals would flow. Flynn got the first of them with a good finish after a delivery by Burke after 44 minutes.
Four minutes later, Joseph Cooney soloed through and drilled a superb low shot to the bottom right corner of the net.
Niall O'Brien was the only one offering serious resistance for Westmeath, although subs Niall Mitchell and Brendan Murtagh hit a couple of points each.
Conor Cooney came off the bench and announced his return from injury with four points from play as 11 different scorers found the target for the Tribesmen, who displayed no signs of a team suffering from their relegation from the top flight.
They finished strongly with Whelan finding the net three minutes from time, but by then a sizeable chunk of the crowd were already negotiating the traffic out of town.
SCORERS - Westmeath: N O'Brien 0-12 (0-8f); A Devine, B Murtagh (0-1f) & N Mitchell 0-2 each; K Doyle 0-1. Galway: J Canning 0-8 (0-3f, 0-1 sideline, 0-1 '65); J Flynn 1-3 (0-1f), C Whelan 1-1; C Cooney 0-4; J Cooney 1-0; David Burke & D Glennon 0-3 each; C Mannion 0-2; S Maloney, P Brehony & N Burke 0-1 each.
Westmeath: P Maloney 8; S Power 5, T Doyle 6, T Gallagher 6; A Craig 6, A Clarke 5, G Greville 6; C Boyle 6, R Greville 6; L Varley 5, E Price 5, N O'Brien 8; A Devine 7, D McNicholas 5, D Egerton 5. Subs: B Murtagh 7 for Egerton (36), N Mitchell 7 for Boyle (51), A McGrath 5 for Varley (55), K Doyle 6 for Price (58), D Clinton 6 for McNicholas (59).
Galway: C Callanan 7; J Coen 6, J Hanbury 7, F Moore 6; P Mannion 7, Daithi Burke 7, A Harte 7; David Burke 7, D Glennon 7; S Maloney 6, J Canning 8, J Cooney 7; C Whelan 7, C Mannion 6, J Flynn 7. Subs: C Cooney 8 for Canning (40), K Hussey 6 for Moore (52), A Tuohy 6 for P Mannion (52), N Burke 6 for Flynn (56), P Brehony 6 for Coen (63).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).