Westmeath seal first victory after they defeat Antrim in Division 1 Group B league clash

JOE FORTUNE was pleased that Westmeath finally managed to get a win on the board in Division 1B — though he had hoped for a better showing.

Having only been bettered late on by All-Ireland champions Limerick before giving Tipperary a real game in another defeat, the Lake County got the job done this time against Antrim in Mullingar.

Joseph Boyle of Westmeath in action against Ronan McAteer of Antrim during their maiden win of the league campaign


Joseph Boyle of Westmeath in action against Ronan McAteer of Antrim during their maiden win of the league campaign
Westmeath manager Joe Fortune will be delighted with the win


Westmeath manager Joe Fortune will be delighted with the win

A goal from sub Davy Glennon on the hour helped them to a six-point win.

Yet downbeat Fortune said: “The result represents progress but the performance probably doesn’t.

“We were better against Tipperary and Limerick than we were today. The lads themselves demand high standards.

“Antrim are still in the Liam MacCarthy and we aren’t. It’s not easy competing at the top level.

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“We have Dublin next Saturday to wrap up the league but it’s all about the Joe McDonagh Cup and the tough teams we have to play in that competition.”

A small crowd turned out at a wet and windy Cusack Park to witness breeze-assisted Westmeath race into an early three-point lead courtesy of a David Williams free and scores from play from David O’Reilly and Eoin Keyes.

Free-taker Conal Cunning soon opened the visitors’ account but Westmeath were 0-6 to 0-3 up when Williams — who had scored a whopping 2-12 against Tipperary — converted a 12th-minute 65.

The gap was back down to the bare minimum before Fortune’s charges scored a fortuitous goal through Keyes in the 23rd minute — as his point attempt from an acute angle ended up being spilt over the line by Antrim keeper Tiernan Smyth under no great pressure.

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The visitors quickly responded with a goal of their own when Niall McKenna, who had earlier been denied by the acrobatics of Noel Conaty, batted to the net from close range at the end of a Scott Walsh delivery.

The home team finished the first half strongly to lead by 1-12 to 1-8 at the interval. Remarkably, Antrim shot no wides in the first half.

Half-time sub Peter Clarke increased Westmeath’s lead with a quality point soon after the change of ends.

Williams then slotted over another free which was cancelled out by the recently introduced Saffrons sub Eoin McFerran.

Westmeath’s lead was three points — 1-15 to 1-12 — when impressive sub Glennon found the net on the hour mark after a Williams free into the wind had dropped short.

Past All-Star nominee Killian Doyle also impressed when sprung from the bench and he chipped in with two points from play to help his side over the line and keep Antrim on zero at the foot of the table.

In truth, the Lake County never looked like being overturned in the closing stages despite a late rally from Darren Gleeson’s troops.

After an awful opening NHL game in Salthill, Westmeath now seem primed to be real contenders for the Joe McDonagh Cup, while Antrim will need huge improvement if they are to be competitive in the Leinster Championship.

Gleeson had only 21 players togged out but was keen to avoid excuses despite having lost a number of key men from last year.

He said: “Once you have 15 lads crossing the line, you expect them to give everything they have, and they did so here.

“We had Under-20s trying to learn their trade. Hopefully injuries will clear up in the weeks ahead.”

Westmeath 2-18 Antrim 1-15

 WESTMEATH: N Conaty; D Egerton, T Doyle, C Gaffney; J Gillen, K Regan, J Bermingham; R Greville 0-1, S McGovern; N Mitchell, D Williams 0-8, 5f, 2’65, O McCabe; E Keyes 1-2, J Boyle 0-1, D O’Reilly 0-2. Subs: A Craig for Gillen 32 mins; K Doyle 0-2 for O’Reilly h-t; P Clarke 0-1 for McGovern h-t; D Glennon 1-1 for Keyes 52; M Daly for McCabe 66.

 ANTRIM: T Smyth; P Duffin, R McCloskey, P Burke; S Walsh, R McGarry, N O’Connor 0-2; E Campbell 0-2, E Óg McGarry; R McAteer, R McMullan, N McKenna 1-1; C Cunning 0-7, 5f, C McCann 0-2, F McCurry. Subs: C Boyd for McGarry 45 mins; E McFerran 0-1 for Walsh 45; C McGarry for McMullan 54; A Bradley for McAteer 58 mins.

 REFEREE: S Hynes (Galway).

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