Westmeath and Laois 'shadow box' their way to stalemate
Laois 1-22 Westmeath 1-22
In a dry run for the Joe McDonagh Cup final in two weeks' time, a late free from Laois sub Eoin Gaughan ensured a share of the spoils at O'Moore Park on Saturday.
With both teams knowing before throw-in they were more than likely going to meet again in Croke Park on June 30, it meant that neither team were going to show their hand too much in this game.
In much the same way that politicians can speak without saying anything of note, both teams served up a decent game of hurling while offering little to suggest how they might approach the decider.
"I think anybody with a brain in their head would realise after about ten minutes of the second half that it turned into a shadow-boxing exercise," was the verdict of Westmeath manager Joe Quaid after the final whistle.
Assured Westmeath only had to avoid defeat by 20 points to be assured of progress, and that outcome never looked likely. "We knew we were through, Laois obviously knew beforehand, so I don't think either of the management teams learned too much about the opposition," admitted Quaid.
"Finals take on a different guise anyway, so no matter if we had gone hammer and tongs today, probably a final in Croke Park would have thrown up a different result anyway."
Over in the Laois dressing room, manager Eddie Brennan was expecting a different encounter in Croker. "I think in terms of intensity you're going to see a completely different match, both teams didn't stand back from it today but there's obviously more there."
Westmeath had the better of the first half here, with Robbie Greville's expertly taken goal seeing them lead 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time.
Laois were a team transformed after the break, with sub Gaughan showing well. Mark Dowling pounced for a goal and they led 1-16 to 1-13 midway through the half. Westmeath rallied to lead by two in the closing stages, but two late Gaughan frees earned Laois a draw.
SCORERS - Laois: S Maher 0-6 (2f, '65); E Gaughan (2f), R King 0-4 each; M Dowling 1-0; J Kelly 0-3; S Bergin 0-2; M Whelan, C Stapleton, E Rowland (f) 0-1 each. Westmeath: K Doyle 0-10 (9f, '65); R Greville 1-2; D Clinton 0-4; J Boyle 0-2; A Devine, A Clarke, C Doyle, G Greville 0-1 each.
LAOIS - E Rowland; L Cleere, E Killeen, J Phelan; J Kelly, M Whelan, C Stapleton; J Lennon, C Phelan; R King, N Foyle, S Maher; M Dowling, A Dunphy, S Bergin. Subs: E Gaughan for Lennon (h-t), A Bergin for Dunphy (50), A Mortimer for J Phelan (53), L Burke for Kelly (59), C Comerford for Foyle (67).
WESTMEATH - C Lynch; D Egerton, T Doyle, G Greville; L Varley, A Clarke, P Greville; S Clavin, J Gilligan; C Doyle, K Doyle, J Boyle; R Greville, D McNicholas, A Devine. Subs: S McGovern for Clavin (h-t), C Shaw for Egerton (44), J Galvin for C Doyle (51), D Clinton for McNicholas (53), D O'Reilly for G Greville (60), S Power for P Greville (63).
Ref - P Murphy (Carlow)