Offaly edge out Westmeath to secure Leinster final place
Offaly 1-11 Westmeath 1-9
Offaly showed more composure in the closing stages to overcome Westmeath in this EirGrid Leinster Under-20 FC semi-final at TEG Cusack Park last night (Thursday).
The teams were level at 1-8 apiece at the second water break, but Offaly outscored their opponents by 0-3 to 0-1 in the time remaining.
Overall, it was a deserved win for Offaly who started the game much better but some missed chances allowed Westmeath to stay in the game. In total, Offaly registered 14 wides as opposed to Westmeath's seven - a reflection of the amount of chances the visitors created.
Cormac Egan, a late call-up to the Offaly starting team, more than justified his selection and the Tullamore player's 12th-minute goal gave Offaly an early advantage. Egan drove the ball to the roof of the net as Westmeath were punished for some slack defending.
On a humid evening in Mullingar, Offaly led 1-1 to 0-2 at the first water break, the Westmeath points coming from Ben McGauran and the impressive Devin Hill.
With Ciaran Daly working hard at midfield and Shane Fleming creating openings for colleagues, Westmeath improved after a poor start. And an absolutely brilliant individual goal by Devin Hill provided a major lift to home fans. The Killucan man weaved his way past a number of Offaly defenders, before sweeping the ball into the top corner of the net (25th minute).
But the outstanding Jack Bryant was always a thorn in Westmeath's side and the Shamrocks player helped Offaly into a 1-5 to 1-3 lead at half-time.
Bryant added to Offaly's lead early in the second half. But with substitutes Liam Moran and Senan Baker making a positive impression, Westmeath enjoyed a productive spell in the third quarter. Points from Torpey, Fleming (mark) and McGauran (free) drew Damien Gavin's side level.
Impressive Offaly sub Keith O'Neill put Declan Kelly's charges back in front, but Westmeath went ahead for the only time thanks to points from McGauran (free) and Moran (from an acute angle). A fine individual score by Cormac Egan tied matters at the second water break.
Two pointed frees from Bryant either side of a splendid point from Aaron Kellaghan gave Offaly a three-point lead with seven minutes left.
Westmeath's only response on the scoreboard was another pointed free from McGauran as, despite applying some late pressure, the home side was unable to conjure a goal.
Offaly will meet Dublin in the Leinster final after the Dubs overcame Meath by 4-7 to 0-13 in the other semi-final, played in Navan.
The final will be played next Thursday, July 22 at MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise (throw-in 7:30pm).
Man of the match
Jack Bryant (Offaly). He finished with 0-7 to his credit and was always a major threat to the Westmeath defence.
SCORERS – Offaly: J Bryant 0-7 (4 frees); Cormac Egan 1-1; K O’Neill, A Kellaghan and C Delaney (f) 0-1 each. Westmeath: B McGauran 0-5 (4f); D Hill 1-1; J Torpey, L Moran and S Fleming (mark) 0-1 each.
Offaly: Sean O'Toole; Fionn Dempsey, Kieran Dolan, Lee Pearson; Rory Egan, John Furlong, Aaron Brazil; Ed Cullen, Morgan Tynan; Ciaran Egan, Cathal Flynn, Cathal Donoghue; Cormac Egan, Jack Bryant, Aaron Kellaghan. Subs used: Cormac Delaney for Tynan (inj., 10 mins); Keith O’Neill for Ciaran Egan (37); Tom Hyland for Dempsey (43); Harry Plunkett for Kellaghan (inj., 60)/
Westmeath: Sean Martin; Josh Gahan, Charlie Drumm, Ciaran Daly; Enda Gaffney, Darragh Seery, Michael Byrne; Jack Murtagh, Ciaran Daly; Shane Fleming, Kevin O'Sullivan, Brandon Kelly; Jack Torpey, Ben McGauran, Devin Hill. Subs used: Liam Moran for O’Sullivan (28 mins); Senan Baker for Murtagh (h-t); Stephen O’Connor for Kelly (inj., 37); Jordan McDonnell for Byrne (49); Kehn Ruzzell for C Daly (no. 4, 53).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).