Leinster SFC: Laois edge out Westmeath
Leinster SFC Quarter-Final
LAOIS 0-12 WESTMEATH 0-10
By John Harrington at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park
Laois just about resisted a second-half revival by Westmeath to book a Leinster SFC semi-final date with Meath.
This contest was defined by the strong wind as both teams profited from having it at their backs, Laois in the first half and Westmeath in the second.
In the final analysis, though, Laois made greater use of it both in defence and attack than Westmeath did.
In the first-half the wind allowed them to send in angled deliveries to target-men Paul Kingston and Evan O’Carroll who were both looking very sharp, whereas Westmeath didn’t pose the same sort of attacking threat.
And because the Lake County were forced to carry the ball against the wind in the first half it allowed Laois the time to get their defensive shape in good order whenever they lost possession.
When Westmeath carried the ball forward they were faced by 12 Laois-men in their own half with canny veteran Colm Begley carrying out sweeping duties to good effect while his team-mates closely marked anything in maroon that moved.
Laois were already three points ahead by the sixth minute with O’Carroll landing two frees and Kingston hitting one from play, and their dominance only grew thereafter.
Westmeath were suffering a total systems failure. They were getting cleaned out on their own kick-outs, and struggled to make any headway against the well-organised Laois defence when they did win possession.
Repeated handling errors and mis-directed passes saw the Lake County cough up possession far too easily time and time again, and Laois were good enough to make them pay when they counter-attacked.
O’Carroll, in particular, was moving well in the Laois attack, and two cracking points in a row from him – one from either wing – helped Laois into a 0-8 to 0-2 half-time lead.
Neither of Westmeath’s two points were from play, which summed up just how poor their attacking play had been in the first-half.
They did finally get off the mark from play just a minute into the second-half when John Heslin pointed, and as the half progressed Westmeath slowly warmed to the task.
Despite missing two decent goal chances – a weak shot from Heslin was saved by Graham Brody and then Laois defender Gareth Dillon brilliantly blocked a drive from Denis Corroon – Westmeath had the deficit down to three points by the 55th minute.
Ger Egan was largely responsible for this surge as he kicked three frees and a fine point from play to give his team some badly needed momentum.
Just when it looked like Laois were losing their way, that man O’Carroll stepped forward to score another classy point that steadied their nerves.
Robbie O’Toole reduced the gap to three but Laois were looking relatively comfortable as they retained possession for long spells as the game ticked into the final few minutes of normal time.
Westmeath summoned a late surge, though, as a Ger Egan free and a nice Callum McCormack point meant the gap was down to the minimum in the final minute of normal time.
Laois were living on their nerves now, but they finally made the game safe in the fourth minute of injury-time when Eoin Lowry scored the last point of the match.
Scorers for Laois: Evan O’Carroll 0-8 (5f), Paul Kingston 0-2, Conor Boyle 0-1, Eoin Lowry 0-1
Scorers for Westmeath: Ger Egan 0-7 (6f), Ronan O’Toole 0-1, John Heslin 0-1, Callum McCormack 0-1.
LAOIS: Graham Brody; Denis Booth, Mark Timmons, Gareth Dillon; Sean O’Flynn, Colm Begley, Patrick O’Sullivan; John O’Loughlin, Kieran Lillis; Daniel O’Reilly, Conor Boyle, Damien O’Connor; Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy, Evan O’Carroll. Subs: Robbie Piggott for Mark Timmons (9), Martin Scully for Colm Murphy (ht), Donie Kingston for Conor Boyle (60), Brendan Quigley for Damien O’Connor (66), Eoin Lowry for Daniel O’Reilly (66), Sean Byrne for Colm Begley (70)
WESTMEATH: Eoin Carberry; Kevin Maguire, Ronan Wallace, Boidu Sayeh; Killian Daly, Noel Mulligan, James Dolan; Sam Duncan, Denis Corroon; David Lynch, John Heslin, Frank Boyle; Ronan O’Toole, Kieran Martin, Ger Egan. Subs: Callum McCormack for Sam Duncan (32), Luke Loughlin for Frank Boyle (ht), Darren Giles for Denis Corroon (61)
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)