Westmeath’s Mikey Weir comes under pressure from Meath’s Thomas Sheridan.

Missed goal chances cost Westmeath minors

Meath 2-11, Westmeath 1-7

Another chapter was written in the book of Westmeath's underage woes last Saturday when a string of missed goal chances allowed Meath to eventually claim a comfortable victory in this Leinster MFC encounter at TEG Cusack Park.

The result means Westmeath are knocked out of the Leinster MFC with three defeats from three games, while Meath advance to a preliminary quarter-final.

On a breezy day in Mullingar, Westmeath were aided by the wind in the first half but only led by two points at the break, 0-4 to 0-2. Talented forwards Will Scahill and James McHugh both missed goal chances which they would have been expected to take and, in a sense, the writing was already on the wall.

An inability to find the net from gilt-edged opportunities continued to haunt Westmeath in the second half and when another missed chance was quickly followed by Evan Kelly scoring Meath's first goal (46th minute), the Royals were well on their way.

Westmeath will now enter the third tier All-Ireland series which will involve 13 teams, and it remains to be seen if Eoghan Kevlihan's side can make an impact in this new competition.

This game never reached any great heights and one could see why both sides went into the contest off the back of two defeats. In mitigation, the strong wind wasn't conducive to good football. In any case, a physically stronger Meath outfit emerged as deserving winners of what was effectively a knock-out game simply because they took a far greater proportion of their chances.

Adam Smyth and Andrew Henson were eligible for selection, having missed Westmeath's defeat to Kildare through suspension, but surprisingly neither player was started. Henson was introduced as a substitute at half-time, while Smyth joined the fray early in the second half and the Maryland/Tang player made a notable impact.

In a foretaste of what was to come, Will Scahill fired across the goal and wide after taking a pass from James McHugh (fifth minute). Despite playing against the strong breeze, Meath launched a number of early attacks and, having missed some chances, they went ahead with points from Evan Kelly and Cian Tobin. A fine point by Garrycastle's McHugh opened Westmeath's account (12th minute) after good work from Michael Moloney.

McHugh soon drove a goal chance wide of the target following by a pass from the creative Daragh Lough. Westmeath players were having difficulty in judging the strength of the wind with a number of overhit deliveries giving the inside forwards little hope. For their part, Meath were content to engage in bouts of 'keep ball' against the wind.

A splendid score from midfielder Daire O'Brien lifted Westmeath spirits (23rd minute) but more was needed with the wind to face in the second half.

Points from Lough (a free, after a needless Meath foul) and Mikey Weir (from long range after Lough was prominent in the build-up) were all the home side could add before half-time. Just before the break, a shot from Westmeath wing-back Jack Carroll hit the junction of upright and crossbar as a score proved elusive once again.

Within nine minutes of the restart, Meath had turned a two-point deficit into a lead of the same margin. The increasingly influential Cormac Nugent scored three points (his first a free which went over via the crossbar), with Cormac Smith also finding the target during this spell.

Westmeath replied with Lough's neat point from a tricky angle, but Joe Cowley's side reinforced their dominance with points from midfidelder Cathal Barron and Nugent.

Midway through the second half, a remarkable passage of play saw three goal chances in the space of just over a minute. Firstly, Westmeath goalkeeper Paul Keating somehow denied Nugent a goal with his legs as both sets of fans waited for the net to ripple. Play quickly switched to the other end of the field and Westmeath sub Ben McNamee set up Scahill, but his palmed effort was easily gathered by Meath netminder Cian Murphy. With moments, the ball was in the Westmeath net by virtue of Kelly's composed finish.

After Nugent added another pointed free, Meath sealed victory when Kelly created the chance for Pat Crawley to score their second goal (51st minute). That green flag, which put Meath 2-9 to 0-5 ahead, came after a careless Westmeath turnover.

Westmeath did strike for what proved a consolation goal when the listed full forward line combined to great effect. Lough, who operated in a deeper role, found Scahill with a dinked pass and the Shandonagh youngster moved the ball on to McHugh, who swept a left-foot shot to the net.

McHugh soon had what seemed an easier goal chance but he appeared to hesitate and a Meath defender somehow managed to block his effort. A Westmeath goal might have set up an exciting finish, but instead the game petered out, with four points evenly shared in the time remaining.

The influential Kelly and Nugent (a free) were on target for Meath, with Scahill (a free) and McHugh scoring for Westmeath. McHugh was clearly aiming for a goal with his stoppage time effort, but Murphy made a terrific save at the expense of a point. It mattered little at that stage on a day when Westmeath just couldn't find the net when it counted.

Scorers – Meath: C Nugent 0-6 (3f); E Kelly 1-2; P Crawley 1-0; C Tobin, C Smith, C Barron 0-1 each. Westmeath: J McHugh 1-2; D Lough 0-2 (1f); M Weir, D O’Brien, W Scahill (f) 0-1 each.

Meath: Cian Murphy; Cillian Yore, Sean McLoughlin (joint captain), Thomas Sheridan; Cian Tobin, Cormac Smith, Conal Diggins; Cathal Barron, Eoin McCrudden; Ciaran Sheridan (joint captain), Evan Kelly, Cormac Nugent; Sean McQuillan, Jack Doyle, Pat Crawley. Subs used: Harry Healy for McCrudden (43 mins), Charles McCarthy for Doyle (49), Andrew Brien for C Sheridan (53), Conor Black for Barron (57), Oran Meade for Tobin (59), Adam Ducie for Crawley (blood, 60+1).

Westmeath: Paul Keating; Daire Burke, Cian Whitney (captain), Ben Sheerin; Ty Masterson, Mikey Weir, Jack Carroll; Daire O'Brien, Christoir Ormsby; Cormac McKeogh, Michael Moloney, Ryan Flynn; William Scahill, Daragh Lough, James McHugh. Subs used: Andrew Henson for Moloney (h-t), Adam Smyth for Carroll (37 mins), Peadar Glennon for McKeogh (37), Ben McNamee for Sheerin (42), Oisin Mulvihill for O’Brien (59).

Referee: Dan Stynes (Dublin).