Ronan O’Toole hit four points for Westmeath in a superb individual display.

Westmeath turn on the style to reach first Tailteann Cup final

Tailteann Cup senior football semi-final: Westmeath 3-22, Offaly 2-16

Westmeath’s senior footballers put on a display worthy of the Sunday afternoon TV billing in Croke Park today, comfortably beating neighbours Offaly to reach the inaugural Tailteann Cup final.

The result never looked in doubt after Jack Cooney’s charges raced into a 1-4 to nil lead at the end of the first quarter, and while a game Offaly side were no pushovers, the Lake County deservedly advanced to cup decider against Cavan on July 9 (the Breffni County defeated Sligo in today’s other semi-final).

The Faithful men, who had to contend with a vomiting bug in the camp as well as a devastating injury to experienced defender Niall Darby, had a far from ideal build-up to this game.

But that had no bearing on a Westmeath side which arrived at Headquarters with only one thing on their minds, finishing the game having scored all but three points of their total from open play.

By the fourteenth minute of this midland derby, the Maroons were four up thanks to scores from John Heslin (2), Sam McCartan and Lorcan Dolan. But there was concern about aspects of the Lake County’s shot selection, as they racked up a total of six wides in that first quarter, finishing the half with nine.

However, they underlined their early dominance when in the 15th minute, David Lynch set the onrushing Ronan Wallace through on goal, and the Multyfarnham man rattled the Offaly net from close range.

The importance of taking chances was emphasised when Offaly abruptly cut Westmeath’s lead to four (1-5 to 1-1). Keith O’Neill found the net after a quick free from veteran forward Niall McNamee, who pointed another dead ball effort moments later.

Offaly’s revival came apart on 22 minutes though, as some great work from James Dolan led to Sam McCartan squaring the ball for Lorcan Dolan, who fired Westmeath’s second goal with a low left-footed drive.

With playmaker Ronan O’Toole pulling the strings, the St Loman’s man pointed on 34 minutes to hand Westmeath a 2-9 to 1-4 lead. Seconds earlier, a gilt-edged chance at a third goal went a-begging when John Heslin’s finish ricocheted off Luke Loughlin’s back.

The hard-working Anton Sullivan kept Offaly in the game with two consecutive points, but on the stroke of half-time Loughlin divided the posts to leave it 2-11 to 1-6 in the Lake County’s favour at the break.

Heslin and Ray Connellan opened the second half scoring to extend the Maroons’ lead to nine, and a rout looked on the cards before Offaly embarked on a ten minute purple patch.

In that time, Niall McNamee pointed three frees and there were also scores for Keith O’Neill and Dylan Hyland, while Jordan Hayes and Jack Bryant both had goal chances. The former led to a crucial save from Westmeath goalkeeper Jason Daly.

In the 53rd minute, Offaly’s resistance was broken when Kevin Maguire, attacking out of defence, set up Lorcan Dolan for his second goal of the game.

And although Offaly responded with a superb major from sub Cathal Flynn, Westmeath closed out the game on top, with McCartan (2), O’Toole (3) and subs Alex Gardiner and Robbie Forde wrapping up a comfortable win.

Scorers – Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (3f), L Dolan 2-1, R O’Toole 0-4, S McCartan 0-3, R Wallace 1-0, L Loughlin 0-2, J Dolan, R Connellan, A Gardiner and R Forde 0-1 each. Offaly: N McNamee 0-6f, K O’Neill 1-2, D Hyland 0-3, C Flynn 1-0, A Sullivan 0-2, J Bryant, M Abbott and J McEvoy 0-1 each.

Westmeath: Jason Daly; Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire, Jamie Gonoud; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, Sam Duncan; Jonathan Lynam, Ray Connellan; Sam McCartan, Ronan O’Toole, David Lynch; Luke Loughlin, John Heslin, Lorcan Dolan. Subs used: Robbie Forde for Duncan (45), Ger Egan for Lynam (54), Alex Gardiner for L Dolan (62), Nigel Harte for J Dolan (68), Kieran Martin for Loughlin (68).

Offaly: Paddy Dunican; Lee Pearson, Declan Hogan, David Dempsey; Rory Egan, Johnny Moloney, Cian Donohoe; Conor McNamee, Jordan Hayes; Bill Carroll, Ruairí McNamee, Anton Sullivan; Jack Bryant, Niall McNamee, Keith O’Neill. Subs used: Dylan Hyland for Carroll (21), James Lalor for C McNamee (h-t), Mark Abbott for Pearson (51), Cathal Flynn for Bryant (51), Jack McEvoy for R McNamee (64).

Ref: Paul Faloon (Down).