Westmeath’s Jonathan Lynam is tackled by Derry’s Conor Glass.

Bradley’s late goal eliminates wholehearted Westmeath side

Derry 2 - 7 Westmeath 0 - 9

For the second consecutive game against one of the country’s elite teams in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, Westmeath lost by a four-point margin courtesy of a late goal for the winners, this time in Newry last Saturday night, a 65th-minute strike from Derry’s Emmett Bradley eliminating Dessie Dolan’s charges from the competition in absolutely ideal conditions for football.

By virtue of this hard-earned win by the Division 1 football champions over their Division 3 counterparts, Mickey Harte’s troops have scraped into the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final after suffering three successive defeats in earlier matches. Unfortunately, for Westmeath this was their fourth championship loss of 2024, albeit – as was the case in 2023 – they can hold their heads up high after a hat-trick of admirable displays against top sides.

Late goals in both halves were enough for the men in red and white to seal a win which looked like it might not happen when three of the losers’ subs scored a point each between the 55th and 59th minutes to leave the margin at the bare minimum – a draw would have sufficed for the underdogs. However, yet again a lack of scoring power, including zero return from three ‘45’s and what must be a unique scoreless tally in 74 minutes’ action for marquee forward John Heslin, came back to haunt Westmeath, whose defensive effort from start to finish was truly heroic.

Derry fans in Páirc Esler greatly outnumbered their maroon and white-clad equivalents – oddly, Westmeath wore their changed strip of green and maroon despite no discernible colour clash. The by-now usual sight in Derry fixtures of all 30 players in one half of the pitch was quickly evident before skipper Conor Glass opened the scoring with a converted ‘45’ in the third minute.

Ronan O’Toole, who was back to his best in the first moiety, equalised some three minutes later at the end of a fine move. Sam McCartan was well wide from a Westmeath ‘45’ (after a James Dolan effort had been deflected over the goal line, following great work by Jamie Gonoud), but O’Toole doubled his tally in the 11th minute, after a superb catch by Ray Connellan, to nudge the Division 3 standard-bearers ahead.

Derry, who had coughed up some soft very goals in earlier matches, were almost caught out again on the quarter-hour mark, but hard-working Westmeath captain Kevin Maguire was dispossessed at the crucial moment as Derry men retreated en masse. The respective number 14s, Shane McGuigan and Heslin, exchanged wides before Lachlan Murray levelled the contest in the 18th minute. However, the impressive Gonoud, not known as a scorer, quickly nudged Westmeath ahead by 0-3 to 0-2 midway through the first half.

An off-colour Luke Loughlin underhit a scoreable ‘mark’ before Eunan Mulholland and O’Toole (when teed up by the largely ineffectual Senan Baker) exchanged points. McGuigan (a close-range free) and Connellan (with his weaker right foot at the end of a patient move) also traded points.

However, Conor McCluskey, who had been very prominent from the start, scored a great goal in the 33rd minute after fine play by Diarmuid Baker and Donncha Gilmore.

Mulholland added a point in added-time, to leave the red-hot favourites ahead by a flattering three-point margin at the interval, 1-5 to 0-5.

Westmeath attacked from the throw-in to the second half, but were easily turned over.

Ronan Wallace, as ever, was dangerous when sallying forward and he almost got in for a goal in the 41st minute. Within a minute, his colleague Dolan scored a terrific point, but the highly-rated McGuigan (who was kept scoreless from play courtesy of some tough and disciplined defending by the losers) doubled his tally from frees a few minutes later – the award seemed soft. In the 49th minute, Glass did brilliantly to field the ball under his own crossbar from a ‘45’ taken by Wallace, and seconds later he pointed in style at the other end to put the Oak Leaf men ahead by 1-7 to 0-6.

Derry looked in command at this stage, but Westmeath gave their loyal supporters every hope of a shock result when they rifled over three very well-taken and unanswered points in a five-minute period, all scored by subs – one each from Robbie Forde, and the Smith brothers, Stephen and Jack (the latter two scores coming either side of superb defending at the other end by Wallace).

However, Derry had looked the more likely to score a goal, and up popped Bradley with five minutes of normal time remaining, after great work by Baker, to rifle the ball past Jason Daly for the game’s decisive score. Westmeath went all out in search of late scores, but they were unable to breach the winners’ defence, with McCartan missing their third ‘45’ deep into injury-time.


Derry: C McCluskey, E Bradley 1-0 each, S McGuigan (2f), C Glass (1‘45’), E Mulholland 0-2 each, L Murray 0-1.

Westmeath: R O’Toole 0-3, J Gonoud, J Dolan, R Connellan, R Forde, S Smith, J Smith 0-1 each.

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Conor McCluskey, Chrissy McKaigue, Diarmuid Baker; Ciaran McFaul, Eoin McEvoy, Donncha Gilmore; Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers; Ethan Doherty, Emmett Bradley, Paul Cassidy; Eunan Mulholland, Shane McGuigan, Lachlan Murray. Subs used: Declan Cassidy for Murray (62), Cormac Murphy for Mulholland (66), Ruairí Forbes for Bradley (66), Shea Downey for P Cassidy (70+1).

Westmeath: Jason Daly; Jamie Gonoud, Charlie Drumm, Kevin Maguire; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, David Lynch; Ray Connellan, Andy McCormack; Jonathan Lynam, Ronan O'Toole, Sam McCartan; Luke Loughlin, John Heslin, Senan Baker. Subs used: Robbie Forde for Lynam (50), Stephen Smith for Loughlin (50), Jack Smith for Baker (58), Shane Allen for Gonoud (58), Kieran Martin for Dolan (70+1).

Ref: Paul Faloon (Down).