Hat-trick from Whelan helps Galway ease past Westmeath

Galway 6-33 Westmeath 0-17

Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin praised his Galway charges for “going about their business very well” in a 34-point demolition of Westmeath in Mullingar on Saturday evening.

“It was a championship game with two points on offer and it was very important that we prepared properly for it, and the lads produced a professional performance,” the winning manager added. However, in truth, this was a no-contest from start to finish, with Joe Fortune’s depleted side outclassed in virtually every facet of the game.

In this regard, Fortune opined: “The lads who put on Westmeath jerseys are very proud to do so, but it is very difficult when we are missing the calibre of player that we are.”

Their main absentee was All Star nominee and top scorer in recent years, Killian Doyle, while their goal scorer against Dublin a week earlier, Niall Mitchell, was also on the injured list.

Galway settled quickly and they were 0-6 to 0-2 ahead after 13 minutes, the first three points coming from Evan Niland (including two frees). On the quarter-hour mark, Conor Whelan scored his first goal and the floodgates opened.

Six minutes later, Whelan doubled his goal haul, with solid goalkeeper Noel Conaty unlucky not to keep his low shot out. Westmeath responded with what proved to be their only two points from play of the half, courtesy of former Galway player Davy Glennon and Joey Boyle.

Great approach play by Liam Collins and Kevin Cooney teed up Whelan for his third goal in the 25th minute. Four minutes later, Brian Concannon rifled an unstoppable shot to the roof of the Lake County net. Niland was unerring from placed balls and some quality Galway points from play also ensued, leaving them in front by 4-16 to 0-7 at the break.

Hat-trick hero Whelan was replaced at half-time, but the Tribesmen’s fifth goal still arrived less than three minutes after play resumed, Kevin Cooney the man on target on this occasion. Impressive sub Declan McLoughlin raised the winners’ sixth green flag in the 64th minute after producing a great catch. Cormac Boyle was denied by Eanna Murphy in what was the Lake County’s only clear cut goal chance in the 48th minute. Overall, Galway had 13 different scorers in what was a very facile win.

Shefflin was aware that tougher challenges lay ahead when he stated: “We made a couple of changes and that brought energy to the team. It was good to get the goals and to be threatening for goals throughout. We played with a good tempo and a good speed. Competition in the squad is good. To be fair to Westmeath, they have had a couple of difficult weekends and they just don’t have the strength-in-depth that we have when they lose players.”

For his part, Fortune conceded: “I thought we were poor in the first half and stood off Galway. Our second half was a bit better. We are fighting on the flat of our back to stay in the Liam MacCarthy Cup. We have a week’s break now and we need it, psychologically and physically.”

Scorers for Galway: C Whelan 3-1, E Niland 0-10 (6f, 1‘65’), B Concannon 1-3, D McLoughlin, K Cooney 1-2 each, C Mannion, L Collins 0-4 each, D Burke 0-2, P Mannion, C Fahy, S Linnane, M McManus, J Ryan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Westmeath: N O’Brien 0-10 (9f), D Glennon 0-2, R Greville, G Greville, J Boyle, D McNicholas, C Doyle 0-1 each.

Galway: E Murphy; D Morrissey, G McInerney, TJ Brennan; P Mannion, D Burke, F Burke; C Fahy, J Cooney; B Concannon, C Mannion, C Whelan; E Niland, K Cooney, L Collins.

Subs: D McLoughlin for Whelan (h-t), S Linnane for J Cooney (43), E Lawless for D Burke (43), J Ryan for Concannon (53), M McManus for Collins (61).

Westmeath: N Conaty; A Craig, C Shaw, J Bermingham; T Doyle, R Greville, C McCormack; G Greville, C Boyle; K Regan, N O’Brien, J Boyle; D Williams, D Glennon, E Keyes.

Subs: S McGovern for Craig (h-t), D McNicholas for Williams (46), C Doyle for Regan (46), D Clinton for C Boyle (55), P Clarke for Keyes (69).

Referee: K Jordan (Tipperary).