All-Ireland SFC: Galway finish strongly

All-Ireland SFC Group Two

Galway 0-20 Westmeath 0-12

By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park

Galway eventually pulled away from a wholehearted Westmeath side in front of a big crowd in sun-drenched TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar.

Dessie Dolan’s charges, a week after a heart-breaking one-point defeat in Armagh, again showed that they are well entitled to operate at this level and they were deservedly two points ahead after five minutes, via a 45-metre free from John Heslin and a well-worked score finished by Ronan O’Toole.

Cathal Sweeney, who replaced Damien Comer in the only change to either side from the selected teams, got Galway on the scoreboard in the seventh minute. Ray Connellan soon converted a mark for the home team, but it needed great defending from both Jason Daly and James Dolan to prevent the Tribesmen from converting a triple-chance of a goal in the 10th minute at the expense of an unconverted ‘45’.

Points from Johnny Heaney and Paul Conroy edged Galway ahead by 0-5 to 0-4 after 22 minutes, but unanswered points from O’Toole, the lively Luke Loughlin, and Sam McCartan (a grandson of Galway legend Sean Purcell) restored the Lake County’s two-point lead. A rasping shot from Peter Cooke came back off the crossbar in the 33rd minute, but Shane Walsh converted a free immediately afterwards. Westmeath led by 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval.

A Walsh free levelled the game for Padraic Joyce’s troops within a minute of the restart. However, Westmeath continued to play with great spirit and it needed Cian Hernon’s second outstanding point to tie the game at 0-11 each in the 50th minute.

Moments later, Connellan picked up a second yellow card for a foul on John Maher.

The introduction of Comer to a great reception from the large band of travelling fans in the 55th minute had an immediate impact and he fired over a rapid-fire brace to put his side 0-14 to 0-12 ahead.

Sub Eoin Mulvihill scored what proved to be the losers’ last point on the hour mark and Galway, with Cooke excellent as playmaker and scorer, scored six unanswered points – including Comer’s hat-trick completion – in the closing stages, to win with a bit to spare.

Galway never found the net late on, but Maher was superbly foiled by Daly, while Comer also unlucky with an audacious lob, and sub Paul Kelly had a goal disallowed for a throw-ball earlier in the move.

Scorers for Galway: P Cooke, S Walsh (3fs) 0-4 each, D Comer 0-3, J Heaney (1mark), C Hernon 0-2 each, P Conroy, C Sweeney, M Tierney (‘45’), I Burke, J Maher 0-1 each.

Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (1f), R O’Toole, L Loughlin 0-2 each, J Smith, R Wallace, R Connellan, S McCartan, S Smith, E Mulvihill 0-1 each.

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Kelly, J Glynn; C Hernon, J Daly, C McDaid; P Conroy, P Cooke; M Tierney, C Sweeney, J Heaney; I Burke, R Finnerty, S Walsh.

Subs: T Culhane for Finnerty (inj., 7), J Maher for Culhane (46), D Comer for Burke (55), P Kelly for Walsh (69), S Mulkerrin for Hernon (70+3).

Westmeath: J Daly; J Smith, K Maguire, J Dolan; J Gonoud, R Wallace, A McCormack; S Duncan, R Connellan; S McCartan, R O’Toole, D Lynch; L Loughlin, J Heslin, S Smith.

Subs: J Lynam for Duncan (inj., 20), D Giles for J Smith (inj., 47), S Baker for S Smith (48), E Mulvihill for Gonoud (55), C Dillon for McCormack (64).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).