Cork goals prove Westmeath's undoing in thriller

Cork 3-22 Westmeath 0-25

Despite scoring 25 points and playing some superb attacking football, Westmeath lost out to Cork in today’s Allianz Football League Division 2 relegation play-off at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The result means Westmeath are relegated to Division 3 for the 2022 season, which is a big blow to the squad and management team.

Goals win games is the old cliché and it rang true in this thrilling contest as Cork hit three, while Westmeath were unable to find the net from some gilt-edged chances.

In addition, the loss of Ray Connellan early in the second half through injury proved a major blow for Westmeath. The Athlone man scored three points from play in the opening half and his ability to run at the Cork defence was badly missed.

Jack Cooney’s side also lost defender Jack Smith to injury in the first half.

Playing on home turf, Cork went into the game as strong favourites, but Westmeath gave them plenty of problems for long spells.

The visitors led 0-14 to 0-12 at half-time and would have held a bigger lead if, approaching the interval, substitute Sam McCartan’s low shot had found the net rather than the butt of the post.

Westmeath’s ace marksman John Heslin scored six points in the opening half and repeated the feat in the second period for a total of 0-12.

Castledaly’s Lorcan Dolan, making his first start of the 2021 season, hit three points from play, as did Ger Egan and Ronan O’Toole, with Westmeath very impressive going forward.

However, Westmeath really struggled to deal with the Cork forwards, while the home side had a strong midfield foundation in Ian Maguire and Paul Walsh.

Cork’s three goals – scored by Mark Collins, Luke Connolly and substitute Brian Hurley – ultimately proved decisive. Shortly before Hurley raised the third green flag for the Rebels, McCartan blazed over the bar in Westmeath’s most clear-cut goal opportunity of the second half.

A late black card for Cork defender Sean Meehan, for a cynical foul on the always threatening Heslin, came too late to affect the outcome.

Westmeath fans were left to rue their side’s insipid display against Down in their previous outing. Had Westmeath reached even close to the performance level shown against Cork, they would have surely beaten Down.

Even a draw against the Mourne men would have seen the Lake County face a home game against Laois in the play-off, a far easier proposition than a Leeside trip to face Cork.

Ironically, with relegation to Division 3 now confirmed, Westmeath must now pick up the pieces for a Leinster SFC quarter-final against the aforementioned Laois men on July 4.

Scorers - Cork: Brian Hurley (0-1f) and Luke Connolly (4f) 1-4 each; Mark Collins 1-1 (0-1f); Cathail O’Mahony and Daniel Dineen (1m) 0-3 each; Paul Walsh 0-2; Ruairi Deane, Sean White, John O’Rourke, Brian Hartnett and Colm O’Callaghan 0-1 each.

Westmeath: John Heslin 0-12 (8f, 1m); Lorcan Dolan, Ray Connellan, Ger Egan and Ronan O’Toole 0-3 each; Sam McCartan 0-1.

Westmeath team: Jason Daly; Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire (captain), Boidu Sayeh; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, Jamie Gonoud; Denis Corroon, Sam Duncan; David Lynch, Ronan O’Toole, Ray Connellan; Ger Egan, John Heslin, Lorcan Dolan. Subs used: Sam McCartan, Darren Giles, Fola Ayorinde, Noel Mulligan, Nigel Harte, Sam Maxwell.

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).