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Sunday 21 October 2018

Drubbing for makeshift side

Westmeath 3-24 Wexford 0-9

Michael O’Regan challenges James Dolan for possession
Michael O’Regan challenges James Dolan for possession
Conor Carty on the move out of defence for Wexford
Midfielder Niall Hughes is outnumbered by Westmeath duo Paul Sharry and Francis Boyle
Ouch! Naomhan Rossiter is tackled by Ger Egan of Westmeath

Alan Aherne

Part one of Sunday's Innovate Wexford Park double-header was a complete non-event as the decision to give every fringe player a chance with promotion already secured led to a heavy defeat for the Seamus McEnaney-managed home side.

In contrast, Westmeath still needed one victory to make mathematically certain that they would be joining the same opponents in the Allianz League Division 4 final in Croke Park on Saturday, April 8.

They paraded a team as close to championship strength as one would expect at this time of year, and duly got the job done in a one-sided affair with a whopping 24 points to spare.

Wexford may have entertained a chance of matching the midlanders with, perhaps, two-thirds of their regulars on view, but there was only going to be one outcome once the generally young and inexperienced starting team was named.

And while some of the more established faces were introduced out of necessity owing to injuries and a black card, there was still no game time for the likes of Ciarán Lyng, Kevin O'Grady, Ben Brosnan, Eoghan Nolan, Michael Furlong, team captain Daithí Waters, Brian Malone, Colm Kehoe and Shane Roche, all of whom will be expected to feature prominently in headquarters on Saturday week.

Whether or not the management opt for a mix of relative newcomers and longer-serving players for the trip to Carlow next Sunday remains to be seen, but this is merely another box-ticking exercise and a fixture to be fulfilled.

Westmeath were well and truly out of sight by half-time, leading by 1-18 to 0-4 after playing with the advantage of the wind blowing towards the Clonard end.

The electronic scoreboard had gone on the blink early in the second quarter, and perhaps that was a blessing in disguise as the points were being picked off with such regularity by the visitors.

And it didn't make for pretty reading when the problem was finally resolved close to the finish, as the leaders had registered another two goals at that stage.

As for the Wexford team, it's probably fair to say that some of them have a lot to offer on an individual basis and would likely prosper when surrounded by more experienced colleagues.

However, the marked absence of leaders who have been through it all before ensured that Westmeath had matters entirely their own way.

Adrian Flynn was the only one of the starting 15 with a long career at this level to call upon, and in fairness to him he is on the way back from a serious injury and couldn't be expected to be the player of old just yet.

One bright spark was provided by Paul Curtis who shot three of the first-half points from play and was fouled for the other, converted by Donal Shanley.

He had played on at one stage after picking up an injury, so it was no surprise when he didn't resume for the second period as the outcome wasn't going to be altered at that stage.

John Heslin, who notched 1-5 from play and another 0-5 from frees, got his team off the mark in the fourth minute before James Dolan's direct opponent was marked absent not once but twice as the wing-back sauntered forward for two easy points.

That foul on Curtis led to Shanley opening Wexford's account in the seventh minute, and the Clongeen wing-forward then made it 3-2 following good work by Niall Hughes and James Stafford.

Westmeath carved the defence open at will throughout, and only an over-hit handpass by Kieran Martin to Ger Egan prevented a likely goal as Conor Carty was able to intercept.

Eight of the visitors grabbed at least one score from play in the first-half, and they started to ease well clear with unanswered points from Tommy McDaniels, Martin, Heslin and Paul Sharry.

Curtis stopped the rot after Jake Firman's strong run and a final pass from Shanley, but the Westmeath response was even more emphatic this time as they added another 1-8 before Curtis kicked his third point from a John Leacy pass in the 33rd minute.

Heslin (free), David Lynch, Martin and Egan struck points before Egan and Sharry combined to put wing-back Noel Mulligan through. He was hauled down by Jake Firman who was black-carded before Egan calmly tucked the penalty into the left corner of the net with a low shot (1-11 to 0-3).

There was just that one respite from then until half-time as Westmeath continued to dominate and dictate, with further points flowing from Alan Stone, Heslin (two frees), Tommy McDaniels, Heslin, Martin and Heslin yet again.

There was absolutely no chance of Wexford recovering, regardless of wind advantage to come, but even at that they wouldn't have bargained for conceding another goal a mere 32 seconds into the new half.

Noel Mulligan and Ger Egan made the telling passes to leave Heslin in the clear, and he finished with customary aplomb to widen the gap to 2-18 to 0-4.

Niall Hughes did draw a muted cheer when he pointed from 48 metres, but four wides from an overall tally of eight (all after the break) followed from Seán Gaul, Michael O'Regan (play and '45), and Donal Shanley.

Sharry, Egan, Heslin (free) and substitute Callum McCormack left Westmeath 2-22 to 0-5 clear before Adrian Flynn replied in the 54th minute.

The leaders weren't finished though, as Heslin and McCormack ripped the defence asunder yet again and midfielder Alan Stone drove the ball past Conor Swaine to the net.

A Ryan Nolan snapshot went wide in the 57th minute after P.J. Banville's long, high ball broke off Michael O'Regan to Donal Shanley who supplied the pass, but it was the only time Wexford threatened a goal.

Shanley (free), John Tubritt and Banville kicked late points, while Heslin added a brace too before a game that held precious little interest for spectators finally drew to an end.

Wexford conceded 27 of the 48 frees, and yellow cards were dished out in the second-half to Niall Hughes, Ryan Nolan, Adrian Flynn, Naomhan Rossiter and Westmeath's Kieran Martin and John Connellan.

Wexford: Conor Swaine; Conor Carty, Naomhan Rossiter, Seán Gaul; Adrian Flynn (0-1), John Leacy, James Stafford; Niall Hughes (0-1), Syl Byrne; Paul Curtis (0-3), Ian Carty, Jake Firman; Ryan Nolan, Michael O'Regan, Donal Shanley (0-2 frees). Subs. - John Tubritt (0-1) for Carty, inj. (22), Tiarnan Rossiter for Firman, black card (27), P.J. Banville (0-1) for Curtis, inj. (HT), Joey Wadding for Stafford (49).

Westmeath: Darren Quinn; Jamie Gonoud, Francis Boyle, Mark McCallon; James Dolan (0-2), Kevin Maguire, Noel Mulligan; Alan Stone (1-1), Ger Egan (capt., 1-2, 1-0 pen.); Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry (0-2), David Lynch (0-1); Kieran Martin (0-3), John Heslin (1-10, 0-5 frees), Tommy McDaniel (0-2). Subs. - Callum McCormack (0-1) for Martin (46), Denis Corroon for Reilly (51), Killian Daly for Boyle (54), John Connellan for Egan (54), Shane Dempsey for McDaniel (54), Cormac Boyle for Mulligan (67).

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).

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