Shay Murtagh Precast Westmeath SFC Division B
Maryland 0-12 Athlone 0-7
MARYLAND maintained their determined drive towards the knockout phase and in the process inflicted a potentially costly dent to Athlone's aspirations in the 2012 Westmeath SFC, after a sometimes gruelling affair at Moate last Saturday.
Finbar Egan's team came into the contest with two wins from two games (against St Malachy's and The Downs), and though only protecting a one-point advantage at the break, Maryland never looked in danger of surrendering their advantage in the second period.
Their cause was helped, but not entirely tellingly, by the straight red card dismissal of Athlone substitute Mickey Greene in the 38th minute (only two minutes after his introduction). But Maryland had already established a three-point lead at that stage and, thanks largely to the brilliance of Kieran Martin, ended the match with five points to spare.
Veteran Athlone midfielder Aidan St John also saw red late on (for two bookings).
Despite the pre-match interest in this game, it rarely lived up to expectations. Though hugely competitive (and hard-hitting at times), the contest only perked to life in fits and bursts. Athlone were bound to feel the loss of county midfielder Paul Bannon, but John Stapleton and the ever-willing St John did a commendable job in his absence.
But Tom Coffey's side lacked a genuine cutting edge in attack, with only Ray Connellan and John Egan scoring from play.
Athlone also kicked some disappointing wides, notably towards the end of the opening half, and such carelessness ultimately cost them.
Maryland are certainly a team on the rise, and though forced to battle hard, never looked in any particular danger here.
They still have work to complete before ensuring qualification from the group (while Athlone are far from dead and buried either), but Maryland look hard to stop at present.
It all started well for Maryland, with points from Callum McCormack and John Reilly (a free in the fifth minute) putting them on course, before Connellan's point got Athlone off the mark.
Kieran Martin then burst forward to restore Maryland's two-point lead, but Athlone levelled by the 15th minute through frees by Joe Fallon and Brian Gill.
McCormack then picked out David Martin, who converted the most stylish of the first half points, but Egan was then fouled by Bryan O'Donohoe to allow Fallon level matters.
Damien Kelly defended well for Athlone when McCormack almost set-up John Reilly for a goal chance, before David Martin unusually kicked a scoreable free wide.
Darren Malynn assisted McCormack for a sweet score, but Egan showed good sharpness to again level (on 24 minutes). Fergal Murray, who defended stoutly throughout, dragged down John Reilly to allow Kieran Martin to give Maryland a slight advantage at the break (0-6 to 0-5). Maryland began the second half as they did the first, with points from David Martin (a free) and James Reynolds giving them a good cushion.
Mickey Greene then came on - but was sent off within two minutes for an apparent off-the-ball incident - involving O'Donohoe - which was brought to referee Pat Fox's attention by one of his umpires.
McCormack put Maryland four points clear two minutes later, and Athlone's first score of the half came through Gill's 41st-minute free.
The battling Brian Fogarty won another free but Fallon disappointingly shot wide, before St John received his first booking for fouling Malynn.
A spirited Athlone reduced the deficit to two points in the shape of Gill's free, before Stapleton snatched at an opportunity when a goal chance beckoned.
However, their hopes of a fightback disappeared when Kieran Martin kicked two exquisite frees (both from difficult angles on the right). McCormack did likewise from the left to round off the scoring, before the game ended with St John's dismissal for a second booking.
Maryland: K Martin 0-4 (3f), C McCormack 0-4 (1f), D Martin 0-2, J Reilly and J Reynolds 0-1 each.
Athlone: B Gill 0-3 (3f), J Fallon 0-2 (2f), R Connellan and J Egan 0-1 each.
Tom Moran; Bryan O'Donohoe, James Ganly, Trevor Farrell, Darren Malynn, Kieran Martin, Christopher Grimes, Kenny Kincaid, Liam Reilly, David Martin, James Reynolds, David Reynolds, John Reilly, Callum McCormack, Anthony Reynolds. Subs: Enda Kincaid for J Reilly (52 mins), Ronan Farrell for K Kincaid (57).
Darren Costello, Fergal Murray, Paul McEnroe, Brian Gill, Brian Fogarty, Damien Kelly, Emmet Collins, Aidan St John, John Stapleton, Andrew Lynam, Joe Fallon, Shane Kilroy-Glynn, Dermot McManus, Ray Connellan, John Egan. Subs: Mickey Greene for Kilroy-Glynn (36 mins), Seamus Byrne for McManus (55), Brendan Bannon for Collins (58).
Pat Fox (Rosemount).