Laois stumble over the line against Westmeath

Westmeath 0-10 - 0-12 Laois

Not a game to restore your faith in Leinster football.

Laois won it but they did it by just about avoiding defeat. Their reward is a provincial semi-final meeting with Meath in Croke Park in a fortnight's time. Westmeath's is the lottery of the back door.

John Sugrue's winners were decent to good in the first quarter, Westmeath far from terrible in the last but there were far too many passages of poor and aimless play on a day that was, admittedly, made difficult by a strong wind.

Picture Sportsfile
Picture Sportsfile

These two have been regular bedfellows the past 12 months, Laois winning a provincial quarter-final this time last year with ten points to spare before twice falling short of their midland neighbours by a three-point margin the league.

The expectation was that this one would reflect those tight spring contests rather than the summer version when Paul Kingston scored a hat-trick of goals but Laois dominated the opening 35 minutes in Tullamore.

Playing with the aid of a very strong wind at their backs, they claimed a 0-8 to 0-2 lead by half-time and, no matter which way you looked at it, it didn't read well for opponents who will join them in Division Two come 2020.

Westmeath failed to find the target from play in that first period. Add just the one wide to that stats sheet and it explains the struggle they faced in simply engineering openings against a well disciplined and aggressive Laois defence.

Problems arose at the far end too.

Laois made good use of a two-man full-forward line of Evan O'Carroll and Paul Kingston, alternating high balls into the big but mobile duo with clever diagonal service and making hay on the maroon kick-outs to boot.

A first point from play duly arrived for Westmeath less than ten seconds into the second-half but it wasn't a signal of any real intent as the five-point deficit was still intact at the end of a ragged and unappealing third quarter.

Picture Sportsfile
Picture Sportsfile

Sam Duncan could and maybe should have scored a goal for Westmeath in the 53rd minute but his goalbound shot rebounded wide off the body of Gareth Dillon. A letoff for a Laois side that offered little going forward on the turnaround.

Westmeath did bring the gap down to three, to two as the hour passed, and then one with 90 seconds of normal time still to go. Close but not close enough. Laois stumble on deeper into Leinster. Westmeath stagger into the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Scorers for Westmeath: G Egan (0-7, 0-6 frees); J Heslin, R O'Toole and C McCormack (all 0-1).

Scorers for Laois: E O'Carroll (0-8, 0-5 frees); P Kingston (0-2): C Boyle and E Lowry (both 0-1).

Westmeath: E Carberry; R Wallace, B Sayeh, K Maguire; K Daly, F Boyle, J Dolan; S Duncan, D Corroon; N Mulligan, D Lynch, K Martin; G Egan, J Heslin, R O'Toole.

Subs: C McCormack for Duncan (32); L Loughlin for Boyle (HT); D Giles for Corroon (62).

Laois: G Brody; D Booth, C Begley, G Dillon; P O'Suallivan, M Timmons, S O'Flynn; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; D O'Reilly, C Boyle, D O'Connor; E O'Carroll, C Murphy, P Kingston.

Subs: R Piggott for Timmons (8); M Scully for Murphy (HT); D Kingston for Boylan (60); B Quigley for O'Connor and E Lowry for O'Reilly (both 67); S Byrne for Begley (70).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

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