All-Ireland SFC: Galway battle past Westmeath

All-Ireland SFC Group 1


By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park

A wholehearted Westmeath side got caught by a sucker punch goal from Shane Walsh in the 67th minute and were unfortunate to lose by a four-point margin against an under-strength Galway side in ideal conditions for football in Mullingar.

Galway, who had the aid of a slight wind, almost got off to a dream start when a strong run from the throw-in by Matthew Tierney teed up Cein Darcy for a goal chance, but Jason Daly pulled off a terrific save at the expense of a ‘45’ which Connor Gleeson converted. Sam McCartan, a grandson of Galway legend Sean Purcell, equalised in fine style and Dessie Dolan’s charges took the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of a fisted effort by Robbie Forde.

All Star nominee Ronan O’Toole was black-carded in the tenth minute, and the visitors scored two points during that ten-minute spell via Darcy and a Walsh free. Point exchanges ensued between David Lynch (after a great piece of fielding) and Walsh (a free), and John Heslin (a free) and Walsh (a great score from play).

Another Heslin free and a great point from Ray Connellan tied the scoring at 0-6 apiece with a half an hour elapsed. Cillian McDaid nudged Padraic Joyce’s troops ahead, but the Lake County men finished the half strongly with points from Heslin (a free, after the impressive Ronan Wallace was pushed close to the parallelogram) and Wallace himself (in the last action of the half). Westmeath, who had shot no wides to Galway’s five, led by 0-8 to 0-7 at the interval.

Heslin doubled Westmeath’s lead with a converted free in the 39th minute. Gleeson then missed two long-range placed balls at the other end – a ’45’ and a free from slightly further out – but the Tribesmen eventually drew level with a point apiece from Gleeson (from a ’45’) and a free by Walsh (the award seemed soft). Tierney opened his account in the 62nd minute, but Westmeath equalised via Wallace within a minute.

The game was very much up for grabs until a misplaced pass by Connellan allowed Walsh to run almost half the length of the pitch and the Kilmacud Crokes man fired an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net. Heslin narrowed the gap with a free, but Galway saw out a very hard-earned win with late insurance points from Tierney and blood sub Kieran Molloy.

Scorers for Galway: S Walsh 1-4 (three frees), M Tierney, C Gleeson (two ’45’s) 0-2 each, C Darcy, C Hernon, C McDaid, K Molloy 0-1 each.

Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin 0-5 (five frees), R Wallace 0-2, S McCartan, D Lynch, R Connellan, R Forde 0-1 each.

GALWAY: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, L Silke; P Conroy, J Maher; J Heaney, M Tierney, C Darcy; C Hernon, S Walsh, C McDaid. Subs: D Ó Flaherty for Hernon (45 mins), S Mulkerrin for Daly (45 mins), T Culhane for McDaid (52 mins), C Sweeney for Heaney (55 mins), L Ó Conghaile for Maher (65 mins), K Molloy for Mulkerrin (blood, 70 mins).

WESTMEATH: J Daly; J Gonoud, K Maguire, J Dolan; S McCartan, R Wallace, D Lynch; R Connellan, A McCormack; J Lynam, R O’Toole, C Drumm; S Baker, J Heslin, R Forde. Subs: L Loughlin for Forde (52 mins), S Allen for Gonoud (55 mins), S Smith for Baker (55 mins), K Martin for Lynam (69 mins), D Scahill for Dolan (inj., 70 mins).

Ref: N Cullen (Fermanagh).