A STRONG finish in Mullingar yesterday enabled Westmeath to join opponents Fermanagh on the eight-point mark in the race for promotion from Division Three of the Football League.
The first half was a dour and generally defensive affair, with Rory Gallagher’s charges playing whatever bit of good football was on offer. Fermanagh were full value for their fi ve-point interval lead at 0-7 to 0-2. Gallagher felt that his side “should have been maybe nine or 10 points ahead” at that juncture, adding: “Eoin Donnelly was a massive loss for the second half having got a couple of bad bangs, as he was playing well and controlling the middle of the field. Unfortunately, when he went off, we suffered badly.”
Westmeath were unrecognisable on the change of ends and the gap was down to the bare minimum, 0-8 to 0-9, when Fermanagh substitute Eamon Maguire cleverly rolled the ball to the net in the 58th minute against the run of play.
However, just a minute later, Cian McManus picked up a red card – a black to follow an earlier yellow – and the Ernesiders failed to add to their tally in the time remaining. With the home crowd in full voice and with all of Colin Kelly’s subs playing signifi cant roles, the Lake county men fi nished very strongly. They still trailed by two points, 0-10 to 1-9, after 70 minutes.
A minimum of four minutes of added-time was announced during which a fired-up home outfit struck for four points – two converted frees by John Heslin, whose move to full forward for the second half was hugely important, and one each from play by the lively Luke Loughlin and impressive late sub John Connellan. Gallagher “no doubt that Cian’s was a sending-off offence and it was massive turning point in the game. It allowed them to really squeeze us and we really struggled”.
The former Donegal manager added: “Ours was a well-worked goal and that should have been enough to kill the game, but we were very naïve after it. “I didn’t think we managed the game well at all from that position, and our basic skills and support play were poor from then on.
“We brought on players that we thought would be good enough to make an impact on the scoreboard and they didn’t make an impact. “We took the wrong options and some players took their own individual option. In the second half, we were always playing second fiddle to Westmeath.”