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John Heslin was Westmeath's top scorer in their Allianz Football League Division 2 victory over Laois. 
John Heslin was Westmeath's top scorer in their Allianz Football League Division 2 victory over Laois. 

Allianz FL D2: Westmeath storm to victory over Laois

Allianz Football League Division 2


Kevin Egan at TEG Cusack Park

A Jamie Gonoud goal with seven minutes to play crowned a strong all-round performance from Westmeath this afternoon and confirmed a win over Laois that looked likely right from the very early stages of the contest.

With identical win/loss records and scoring difference coming into this game, there was little to call between these two midland counties in the Spring, but there looked to be a world between them this afternoon in Mullingar as Westmeath played a far more controlled, high-tempo brand of football that offered plenty of different scoring threats. The return of Paddy Holloway, Kieran Martin and Jamie Gonoud also strengthened Jack Cooney’s hand as each of the three men played a key role in keeping the county’s promotion sides alive going into the final round of games.  

A deceptively strong breeze favoured the home side in the early stages and John Heslin, lining out at centre forward, didn’t hesitate to use it as he fired over a series of points from distance.

Ronan O’Toole, Kieran Martin and Lorcan Dolan all chipped in as the first seven scores of the game all went Westmeath’s way, aided in no small part by some excellent forward runs and support play from the half back line of Gonoud, Ronan Wallace and James Dolan.

Laois gradually worked their way back into the contest with a series of frees and once Niall Corbet stroked a glorious kick over from the 45m line to make it 0-8 to 0-4, they would have been relatively content with their position, but Westmeath found another vein of form before the interval and pushed their lead out to 0-12 to 0-5, inspired by two sublime scores from Athlone player and former AFL footballer Ray Connellan.

Mike Quirke needed a strong start from his players after half time but instead the third quarter was a scrappy affair, with plenty of stoppages that negated any sign of momentum. Westmeath continued to pose a threat on the break while the Laois forward line struggled to make any impact – as evidenced by Quirke’s decision to replace five of his starting six attackers by the end of the game.

After going point for point with the Laois men for nearly 28 minutes, Westmeath sealed their win when a well-weighted pass from Luke Loughlin into Lorcan Dolan allowed the corner forward to draw Niall Corbet out from his line. A simple lobbed handpass left Jamie Gonoud with a tap in goal to make it 1-16 to 0-8 and while Laois kept pressing in the latter stages, tacking on five Gary Walsh frees, they knew the ship had sailed on this game, so they now face a tough trip to Enniskillen to stave off relegation in seven days’ time.

Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-8 (0-4f), Ronan O’Toole 0-3, Jamie Gonoud 1-0, Lorcan Dolan (0-2m) & Ray Connellan 0-2 each, Kieran Martin, James Dolan & Brandon Kelly 0-1 each.

Scorers for Laois: Gary Walsh 0-6 (0-5f), Mark Barry & Niall Corbet 0-2f each, Evan O’Carroll (0-1f), Gary Walsh & Diarmuid Whelan 0-1 each.

WESTMEATH: Jason Daly; Boidu Sayeh, Kevin Maguire, Jack Smith; Jamie Gonoud, Ronan Wallace, James Dolan; Sam Duncan, Paddy Holloway; Ray Connellan, John Heslin, Kieran Martin; Ronan O’Toole, Luke Loughlin, Lorcan Dolan. Subs: Brandon Kelly for L Dolan (66), David Lynch for Holloway (69), Callum McCormack for Loughlin (70+3), Anthony McGivney for Martin (70+3).

LAOIS: Niall Corbet; Robert Pigott, Denis Booth, Trevor Collins; Alan Farrell, Eoin Buggie, Sean O’Flynn; Kieran Lillis, John O’Loughlin; Gareth Dillon, Mark Barry, Brian Byrne; Diarmuid Whelan, Evan O’Carroll, Gary Walsh. Subs: Ross Munnelly for Barry (46), Eoin Lowry for Byrne (51), Daniel O’Reilly for Dillon (53), Michael Keogh for Whelan (60), Brian Daly for O’Carroll (64).

Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)