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Fennell strikes to cement Westmeath's superiority

IT is a sign of the changing times that Westmeath not only went into this match in Tullamore as favourites but also qualified for the semi-finals with a remarkable degree of comfort.

Westmeath were clear masters in a one-sided encounter and even when Offaly were mildly competitive in the first half, the result was never really in doubt.

It was a measure of the visitors' superiority that Offaly only managed one score from play over the hour -- a shocking statistic that raises real doubts about the future of the game in the Faithful county.

Offaly had the wind behind them early on and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 11 minutes, with Alan Kelly getting their only point from play.

A well-taken goal from Paul Fennell put Westmeath in the driving seat and they were on their way to the semi-finals when they led by 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time.

In the second half, Westmeath were completely dominant. With captain Aonghus Clarke leading the charge from centre-forward, they scored four quick points without reply to put daylight between them.

Offaly never looked like salvaging the game as Westmeath ran out easy winners.

SCORERS -- Westmeath: A Clarke 0-6 (4f), C Scally 0-4 (3f 1 '65'), P Fennell 1-0, N O'Brien 0-3, D Lynch 0-1. Offaly: P Geraghty 0-6f, S Gardiner ('65'), C Kiely (f), A Kelly 0-1 each.

WESTMEATH -- C Lynch; L Varley, T Doyle, T Gallagher; D Fennell, C Scally, G Greville; D Lynch, D McCormack; P Fennell, D Higgins, J Boyle; N O'Brien, A Clarke, R Greville. Subs: K Glennon for G Greville (42), N Kirby for R Greville (49), M Glennon for McCormack (49), T Egan for Gallagher (60), M Murray for Fennell (61).

OFFALY -- C Clancy; S Connolly, S Gardiner, E Grogan; E Hayes, C Kiely, S Og Lyons; J O'Connor, N Wynne; P Geraghty, D Kelleher, A Kelly; T Geraghty, J Sampson, D Cleary. Subs: K Dunne for Cleary (36), C Mulrooney for Wynne (46), A Browne for O'Connor (54).

REF -- G MacCraith (Dublin).

Irish Independent