NFL Division 2 Relegation Semi-Final: Cork show character against Westmeath
By Aidan Delaney
Goals win games, the old mantra still proving it’s worth and Cork have defended their Division 2 status with a 3-22 to 25 point win over Westmeath
A lively opening to this game saw Cathail O’Mahony score 3 quick points to put the rebels on the board inside the opening 5 minutes. Each time he was answered by Lorcan Dolan, John Heslin and Ronan O’Toole.
Ray Connellan put the Leinster side in front for the first time and Heslin doubled the advantage with a beautiful solo effort. Luke Connolly’s free kept the home side in touching distance with 10 played. 0-4 to 0-6.
The score taking on show on Leeside was superb with Heslin, Connellan and Ger Egan smashing lovely points over Micheal Martin’s crossbar while Connolly kept the scores coming for the men in red. Heslin gobbled up a free before the water break to leave the sides 0-6 to 0-10 with 17 minutes gone.
The sight of Boidu Sayeh storming down the Westmeath left wing has become a welcome addition to their attacking talent in recent years and he kept his marker busy all afternoon.
It was illdiscipline that allowed Cork to come back into the game. Connolly was imperious from the placed ball and scores from play from Paul Walsh and Sean White drew the sides level with almost half an hour gone. 11 points each.
But Westmeath kept their cool and should have scored the games first goal only for Sam McCartan’s shot to cannon off the post. That couldn’t stop their momentum though and points from Connellan and Dolan gave them a 2 point advantage at the break. Cork 0-12 Westmeath 0-14.
Ronan McCarthy would have been urging his men to be more ruthless in front of goal and they did as asked on 39 minutes. Luke Connolly’s gorgeous outside of the foot pass was collected on the right by sub Brian Hurley and fellow standby player Mark Collins benefited from his pinpoint hand pass. That put Cork in front for the first time since the 5th minute. 1-14 to 15 points.
Westmeath didn’t let their heads drop as O’Toole, Egan and Dolan stroked over good scores to return the advantage to the visitors. 44 minutes gone 1-14 to 18 points.
Luke Connolly’s performance will delight Rebel fans and he deservedly got a goal to put Cork back in front. He ghosted into the back post to lose his marker and fisted the ball to a crowded net.
That turned the momentum in favour of the hosts and Daniel Dineen kept the gap between the sides before this game was ended as a contest with Hurley raising a third green flag.
Westmeath showed some good forward play which they’ll need in the relegation playoff final but their defending will have to improve if they’re to hang around for 2022.
Scorers for Cork: Luke Connolly (0-4 frees), Brian Hurley (0-1 free) 1-4 each, Mark Collins 1-1 (0-1 free), Cathail O’Mahony, Daniel Dineen (0-1 mark) 0-3 each, Paul Walsh 0-2, John O’Rourke, Ruairí Deane, Seán White, Brian Hartnett, Colm O’Callaghan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-12 (0-8 frees, 0-1 mark), Ronan O’Toole, Ray Connellan, Ger Egan, Lorcan Dolan 0-3 each, Sam McCartan 0-1.
CORK: Michéal Martin; Kevin O’Donovan, Seán Meehan, Kevin Flahive; Seán White, Mattie Taylor, Cian Kiely; Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh; John O’Rourke, Ruairí Deane, Kevin O’Driscoll; Daniel Dineen, Luke Connolly, Cathail O’Mahony.
Subs: Mark Collins for O’Rourke (31, injured), Brian Hurley for O’Mahony (35, injured), Tadhg Corkery for Kiely, Brian Hartnett for Deane (both 53), Eoghan McSweeney for White, Damien Gore for Connolly (both 61), Colm O’Callaghan for O’Donovan (70).
WESTMEATH: Jason Daly; Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire, Boidu Sayeh; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, Jamie Gonoud; Denis Corroon, Sam Duncan; Ray Connellan, David Lynch, Ger Egan; Ronan O’Toole, John Heslin, Lorcan Dolan.
Subs: Sam McCartan for Smith (25, injured), Darren Giles for Connellan (41, injured), Fola Ayorinde for Duncan, Noel Mulligan for Gonoud (both 51), Nigel Harte for Lynch (62), Sam Maxwell for Dolan (67).