McDonagh Cup: Westmeath too good for Offaly
Joe McDonagh Cup Round 2
WESTMEATH 3-18 OFFALY 0-14
By Kevin Egan at TEG Cusack Park
A whirlwind first half performance from Killian Doyle was the centrepiece of a superb team performance from Westmeath in Mullingar this afternoon, as they effectively eliminated Offaly from Joe McDonagh cup contention and took a huge step towards reaching a second consecutive final with a thoroughly deserved 13-point win at TEG Cusack Park.
In every facet of play, Westmeath outclassed their midland neighbours in this fixture. The starting Offaly forward line contributed just two points from play, both from Joe Bergin, as the Westmeath backs dominated their individual battles.
Meanwhile the story from Eoghan Cahill’s puck out was equally bleak as Westmeath won ten out of his first dozen long restarts.
As happened a week previously against Laois, that forced the Birr goalkeeper to go short more often, and that proved fatal on a couple of occasions, most notably when Joey Boyle pounced to score Westmeath’s second goal early in the second half. That goal in the tenth minute of the second half crushed Offaly’s one spell of momentum, after they scored four points in a row to get back to within seven, but outside of that brief period they were a distant second best.
Westmeath’s first half performance was irresistible as they effectively wrapped up the win by the 25th minute, with Doyle rattling over scores from frees and from play, off his right and left, with a goal added in for good measure.
Niall Mitchell ended the game without a flag to his name but he earned a good number of the frees that Doyle converted with his aerial ability and his pace, while Ciarán Doyle also retired scoreless but made a crucial play when he intercepted a poor touch from Mark Egan and flicked the ball into his twin brother. Killian got to the sliothar ahead of a Eoghan Cahill and hit the net, making it 1-3 to 0-2 after 12 minutes.
Mark Egan responded with a point, but what followed was a run of seven consecutive Westmeath scores, including several for the highlight reel. Doyle split the uprights after winning possession with a gorgeous chip lift at midfield, Aonghus Clarke was on target from 80 metres out, then Aaron Craig floated a delightful pass into Doyle to set up a score from the terrace side.
1-10 to 0-3 became 1-13 to 0-5 at half time, and with three substitutes on the field by the start of the second half, there was a brief window in which it looked as if the Faithful County might rally, Joe Bergin fired over two frees and Shane Dooley added another while he was off the field, then Kevin Dunne cut the gap to seven with a score from 60 metres out. Westmeath’s inaccuracy was helping as they added three more wides to the eight they shot in the first half (the final tally was 16-6).
That all fell apart when Eoghan Cahill played a short puckout to Ben Conneely, who overhit his ball to Mark Egan, Joey Boyle pounced, sprinted through two defenders and rifled a shot into the top corner.
Another Doyle free was the only score in the next ten minutes, before Westmeath added a magnificent team goal to pile on the misery. Niall Mitchell made a great catch in the left corner and fed Killian Doyle, who dummied a shot but instead played a low pass under his marker to Derek McNicholas. With Cahill charging out, McNicholas played a perfect lift and strike to find the net, raising the biggest cheer of the day from an already delighted home support, who can legitimately start to think about a Croke Park day out next month.
Scorers for Westmeath: Killian Doyle 1-12 (0-6f), Derek McNicholas 1-3 (0-1f), Joey Boyle 1-1, Aonghus Clarke & Darragh Clinton 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Joe Bergin 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 ’65), Mark Egan, Kevin Dunne, Shane Dooley (f), Cillian Kiely, Shane Kinsella 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: Conor Lynch; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Aaron Craig, Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville; Cormac Boyle, Shane Clavin; Robbie Greville, Killian Doyle, Joey Boyle; Niall Mitchell, Derek McNicholas, Ciarán Doyle. Subs: Alan Devine for C Boyle (HT), Darragh Clinton for C Doyle (55), Conor Shaw for Craig (60), Darragh Reilly for K Doyle (65), Shane Power for R Greville (67).
OFFALY: Eoghan Cahill; David O’Toole Greene, Niall Houlihan, Ben Conneely; Colm Gath, Pat Camon, Dermot Shortt; Kevin Dunne, Mark Egan; Conor Mahon, Sean Dolan, Colin Egan; Oisín Kelly, Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin. Subs: Cillian Kiely for Dolan (26), Damien Egan for Gath (35), Shane Kinsella for Mahon (HT), Conor Langton for Bergin (42, temp), Tom Spain for Camon (52), Kevin Connolly for Shane Dooley (55).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)