Cork edge out Westmeath


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Cork preserved their place in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League with a six-point win over Westmeath at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, but they had to dig deep to see off the Lake County.

Brian Hurley’s 63rd minute goal proved to be the decisive score as Westmeath had responded well to strikes from Mark Collins and Luke Connolly before that. However, Hurley – who scored 1-4 after coming on for the injured Cathail O’Mahony just before half-time – made it 3-18 to 0-22 when he got on the end of a superb pass from wing-back Kevin O’Donovan and Cork were not going to be denied from there.

Ultimately, Cork’s ability to take their goal chances was a key difference between the sides. Westmeath were very impressive in the opening half, the end of which they led by 0-14 to 0-12, but the lead could have been even better as sub Sam McCartan was unlucky to see a 34th minute goal attempt – created by a lovely reverse pass from their talisman John Heslin – come back off the inside of the post, with David Lynch unable to divert the loose ball to the net.

The visitors’ best goal opportunity of the second period also fell to the impressive McCartan on 62, as fellow sub Fola Ayorinde found him in space but his shot whistled just over the bar when a green flag would have made it 1-22 to 2-18 in Westmeath’s favour.

However, while the loss means Division 3 football for Westmeath and four defeats from four league outings, they can take a lot of positives as they face into a championship clash with Laois.

Having fallen behind three times early on, with Cathail O’Mahony the Cork scorer each time, Westmeath hit the front as Ronan O’Toole, Ray Connellan, Ger Egan and Heslin all pointed in a four-point burst and Heslin’s fourth of the day left them 0-10 to 0-6 in front at the first-half water-break.

Cork did show an improvement when action resumed, Luke Connolly frees allied to points from Paul Walsh and Seán White as they drew level, but Heslin and Connellan replied for Westmeath. After Connolly went close to a goal for Cork, McCartan went closer for Westmeath but they would still have been encouraged to lead by two at the break.

Walsh and Hurley got Cork off to a positive start in the second half, Heslin with a Westmeath point in response following a mark, but on 40 Cork looked to have made an emphatic move. When Connolly found Hurley with a good pass from deep, he offloaded to fellow sub Mark Collins and he finished smartly to the net for 1-14 to 0-15.

Again, Westmeath had a stiff riposte, with O’Toole, Ger Egan and Lorcan Dolan all on target, but Cork suckered them with a second goal as captain Ian Maguire was the architect for Connolly’s fisted finish.

By the time of the second-half water-break, Cork were 2-17 to 0-19 ahead but Heslin’s ninth and 10th of the day left just two in it with 11 minutes of normal time left. Ultimately, Hurley’s goal made Cork safe and they finished well to finally put the issue beyond doubt.

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).

REFEREE: Cormac Reilly (Meath).

Picture courtesy of John O’ Brien