Darragh O'Keeffe (St Loman's) gets a challenge in on Garrycastle's Michael Monaghan. Photo: John McCauley

Cox seals hard-earned St Loman’s win with late goal

Shay Murtagh Precast SFC Section 'A': St Loman’s, Mullingar 1-12, Garrycastle 0-11

Gerry Buckley reports

Lively sub TJ Cox proved to be the hero for St Loman’s, Mullingar as they edged out their great rivals in recent years, Garrycastle, in the second match of yesterday evening’s Westmeath senior football championship double-header, played in miserable conditions in front of a small crowd at TEG Cusack Park.

The champions missed a couple of chances to open the scoring in the first minute, and it was Michael Monaghan – who went on to have a fine game – who got the scoreboard ticking over by converting a difficult fourth-minute free at the other end.

His opposite number John Heslin equalized five minutes later from an equally difficult placed ball. Classy points at either end from Monaghan and Shane Dempsey had the sides tied at 0-2 each at the end of a largely forgettable opening quarter.

Declan Kelly’s troops pounced for four unanswered points between the 19th and 23rd minutes, courtesy of Sam McCartan (rounding off a patient move), a fabulous left-footed score from Heslin, Ronan O’Toole (when teed up with aplomb by Heslin), and a ‘mark’ from Dempsey.

Gary McCallon came forward from defence to score a wonderful point for the men in green and red, but Heslin responded in kind with another superb point. A Conor Cosgrove free and a marvellous score from James Dolan kept John Donnellan’s charges very much in touch, and they trailed by just two points (0-7 to 0-5) at the break.

Garrycastle spurned two good chances in as many minutes at the start of the second moiety – a missed free and a ball dropped short. Dolan doubled his tally in the 35th minute to leave his side just the bare minimum in arrears. O’Toole fed Heslin who supplied a quality finish, but Cosgrove soon cancelled this out by converting a tricky free.

Heslin turned provider in the 40th minute, but David Whelan blasted the ball wide when a goal beckoned for the men in blue and white. Their opponents made the most of this let-off by scoring three points without reply by the 46th minute from the boots of Cosgrove (whose low-trajectory shot could easily have found the net), and a terrific brace from the ever-threatening Monaghan.

Cox made a quick impression by halving the deficit in style before Garrycastle lost Mark McCallon to a black card in the 53rd minute – Heslin untypically failing to convert the ensuing free.

The Mullingar men showed what champions are made of by slotting over three unanswered points when most needed, via Heslin (a ‘mark’), sub Paul Whelehan (at the end of a patient move), and Dempsey (after the ball was turned over close to the St Loman’s goalmouth).

In the first minute of added-time, the losers scored for the first time in 15 minutes when goalkeeper Sean Brennan came forward to slot over a 45-metre free.

Crucially, just a minute later, a poor pass from Justin Barrett meant that a possible goal chance was wasted, and St Loman’s made the most of this by racing down the field, with Heslin and Dempsey combining to tee up Cox who confidently found the net with time almost up.

Scorers - St Loman’s: J Heslin 0-5 (1f, 1m), TJ Cox 1-1, S Dempsey 0-3 (1m), S McCartan, R O’Toole and P Whelehan 0-1 each. Garrycastle: M Monaghan 0-4 (1m), C Cosgrove 0-3 (2f), J Dolan 0-2, G McCallon and S Brennan (f) 0-1 each.

St Loman’s, Mullingar: Jason Daly; Sean Kelly, Darragh O’Keeffe, David Whelan; Jack Geoghegan, Kelvin Reilly, Conor O’Donoghue; Ryan Jones, Sam McCartan; Tristan Graham, Ronan O’Toole, Danny McCartan; Peter Foy, John Heslin, Shane Dempsey. Subs used: TJ Cox for D McCartan (39), Paul Whelehan for Graham (49), Kevin Regan for Foy (59).

Garrycastle: Sean Brennan; Mark McCallon, Jack Donohoe, Gary McCallon; James Dolan, Doron Harte, Bill Kelly; Eoin Mulvihill, Justin Barrett; Ger Heneghan, John Gaffey, Andrew Monaghan; Conor Cosgrove, Michael Monaghan, Cathal Mannion. Subs used: Eoin Monaghan for Heneghan (46), James Sheerin for Cosgrove (54).

Ref: Barry Pierce (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge).