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Westmeath preserve Leinster status with thrashing of Laois in round robin finale

Westmeath 5-24 Laois 1-18

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Niall Mitchell celebrates scoring Westmeath's fifth goal against Laois. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Niall Mitchell celebrates scoring Westmeath's fifth goal against Laois. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Niall Mitchell celebrates scoring Westmeath's fifth goal against Laois. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Off the back of their draw with Wexford a week ago, plenty of pundits saw Westmeath winning this last match of the Leinster Hurling round-robins.

But most certainly not in this manner as The Lake County preserved their Leinster Championship status for next year with a 24-point thumping of Laois in Portlaoise.

Now Laois must hope Kerry win the Joe McDonagh Cup final next weekend if they are to be in the top competition next year.

If Antrim win the Final, Laois are relegated.

Westmeath were well worth their win, playing the better hurling all through and always looking like the winners. Their striking was crisper, cleaner and their players were always looking to find the man in space.

No wonder they pushed both Kilkenny and Dublin hard even before that effort against Wexford.

The goals came for Westmeath in the second half and in the end they were worth every point of the 18-point margin.

The winners always played crisp hurling, moved the ball around the pitch accurately and were always looking to find their man.

For the second half of the game, Westmeath manager Joe Fortune made a tactical call that worked like a dream.

He moved big Niall Mitchell to full-forward and began to rain down ball on top of him.

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Mitchell won two clean balls and shifted them off to Niall O’Brien and Eoin Keyes for two Westmeath goals.

And he raised a brace of green flags for himself too as Westmeath turned on the style and eased away from their hapless hosts. Mitchell was a deserving Man of the Match for his one-man demolition job on the Laois defence in the second period.

This has been a tough campaign for Laois and it has ended in bitter disappointment and a shocking loss to a team that Laois would always believe they can beat.

They’ve been beset by injuries and by players opting out of the panel and - with the exception of the Dublin match - have been hammered in every game they’ve played in the Leinster round-robin.

They need to rebuild and a year in Joe McDonagh land might not be the worst thing for them.

SCORERS- LAOIS: R King 0-7 4f’s E Rowland 0-4 4f’s P Purcell 1-1 J Keyes 0-2 B Conroy 0-2 C Dwyer 0-1 P Dunne 0-1

WESTMEATH: K Doyle 0-8 4f’s E Keyes 2-1 N Mitchell 2-0 N O’Brien 1-3 J Boyle 0-4 D Glennon 0-3 J Galvin 0-2 C Boyle 0-1 J Gillen 0-1 A Craig 0-1

LAOIS: E Rowland; P Dunne, S Downey, D Hartnett; R Mullaney, C McEvoy, F. Fennell; J Kelly, L O’Connell; P Purcell, C Dwyer, J Keyes; B Conroy, R King, S Maher- Subs: A Corby for Dunne ht PJ Scully for Maher and T. Keyes for Kelly 55mins W Dunphy for Conroy and E Killeen for Mullaney 57mins

WESTMEATH: N Conaty; J Galvin, C Shaw, D Egerton; R Greville, A Craig, T Doyle; C Boyle, A Clarke; D Glennon, E Keyes, N O’Brien; N Mitchell, J Boyle, K Doyle. Subs: D. McNicholas for O’Brien 57mins K Regan for C Boyle 63mins S McGovern for Greville 66mins J Gillen for Keyes 68minsfdsdfsdf

Referee: C. Cunning (Antrim)


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