Westmeath captain Brian Cooney (Westmeath) led by example against Limerick.All photos: Gerry Shanahan-www.cyberimages.net

Duncan goal crucial as U20 footballers reach final

Westmeath 1-15, Limerick 2-5

A dominant second half display against Limerick in sun-drenched FBD Semple Stadium last Saturday afternoon enabled Westmeath’s U20 footballers to qualify for next weekend’s All-Ireland ‘B’ final against Mayo/Down.

A very small crowd was present for the first leg of a rare football double-header in the home of hurling, and while there would have been a clear gulf in class evident for those who stayed on for the Kerry v Meath ‘A’ semi-final, the curtain-raiser did produce some fine passages of play and quality scores, most of them coming from Damien Gavin’s victorious charges, who have put two Leinster championship defeats behind them – one of them at the hands of Meath – to pursue a decent consolation prize with admirable pride and determination.

Shane Ormsby opened the scoring in fine style in the second minute at the end of a patient Westmeath move, but the lead was short-lived with Limerick midfielder Emmet Rigter impressively scything his way through the winners’ defence some two minutes later before firing the ball past Senan O’Driscoll. The respective number 8s, Tadhg Baker (a fisted score) and Rigter (a difficult free), soon traded points.

In the ninth minute, it needed the intervention of Hawkeye to overrule the umpire’s initial decision and award Ormsby his second point of the contest. The hard-working Daragh Lowry equalized (0-4 to 1-1) some three minutes later, when a goal briefly beckoned. Just approaching the midpoint of the first moiety, the Shannonsiders were reduced to 14 men when full forward Ronan Quirke was black-carded.

A point exchange between Lowry (after a trademark solo goalward) and Rigter (a needlessly-conceded free) ensued, but Shane Kelly’s troops regained the lead in the 27th minute when Darragh Murray sent O’Driscoll the wrong way from the penalty spot after the latter was deemed to have fouled Jason Hassett. A fine brace of converted frees by skipper Brían Cooney, either side of Limerick almost getting in for a potential third goal, left Westmeath trailing by 2-2 to 0-7 at the interval.

Cooney made it a hat-trick from placed balls within a minute of the resumption of play to tie up the scoring. A Ronan Murray lob came back off the crossbar before Westmeath went into a lead they never looked likely to relinquish when the same player scored an opportunist point in the 32nd minute. Further points followed courtesy of Cooney (a left-footed shot from play) and Shane Hanley (from a tight angle). Rigter was denied a goal by Eoin Bracken at the expense of a ‘45’ which was superbly converted by Darragh Murray, the losers’ most consistent player on the day.

Two more successful frees by Cooney – the first of them moved closer to the target for dissent – preceded the game’s defining moment, when Cooney did well to swing in a probing delivery and Jack Duncan was on hand to slap the ball past Craig McInnes from close range. Darragh Murray kicked a terrific free from the ground from all of 50 metres before Cooney was black-carded at the other end in the 51st minute.

In his captain’s absence, Ronan Murray successfully took over free-taking duties in the 56th minute. Conall Ó Duinn and sub Darragh Hall (who sensibly fisted the ball over the Limerick crossbar) swapped points to wrap up the scoring. Four minutes of added-time brought missed chances at either end.


Westmeath: B Cooney 0-6 (5f), J Duncan 1-0, D Lowry, S Ormsby, R Murray (1f) 0-2 each, T Baker, S Hanley, D Hall 0-1 each.

Limerick: E Rigter (0-2f), D Murray (1-0 pen, 0-1f, 0-1‘45’) 1-2 each, C Ó Duinn 0-1.

Westmeath: Senan O’Driscoll; Adam Keane, Cormac Monaghan, Seánaí Bracken; Daragh Lowry, Jason Macken, Liam Daly; Tadhg Baker, Shane Ormsby; Jack Duncan, Brían Cooney, Eoin Bracken; Rory Cole, Shane Hanley, Ronan Murray. Subs used: Shane Corcoran for Cole (39), Tiarnán O’Donovan for E Bracken (54), Darragh Hall for Duncan (57), Matthew Thornton for Murray (60).

Limerick: Criag McInnes; Jamie Behan, John Whelan, Paddy Downey; Michael Kilbridge, Craig O’Connell, Jason Hassett; Emmet Rigter, Darragh Murray; Aaron Neville, Conall Ó Duinn, Cathal O’Mahony; Josh McCarthy, Ronan Quirke, Senan O’Brien. Subs used: Padraic Murphy for O’Brien (49), Bobby Smith for Quirke (49), Michael Long for Behan (54), Patrick Noonan Sweeney for Kilbridge (56), Tom Ryan for O’Mahony (60).

Ref: Christopher Ryan (Galway).