Offaly 4-15 Westmeath 1-20
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Shane Dooley scored 3-8 as Offaly survived a helter skelter closing period to beat neighbours Westmeath in this highly entertaining Leinster SHC quarter-final at TEG Cusack Park.
The hosts were by far the better side in the opening half but Offaly raised their levels considerably in the second and when Dooley made it 3-14 to 0-18 in the 67th minute with his second goal, the game looked in the bag.
Alan Devine brought his tally to 10 points with a brace of scores, including one from a 65, to reduce the margin to a goal however, and that arrived two minutes into injury time when Killian Doyle somehow beat Offaly goalie James Dempsey from almost the endline, after Joey Boyle had made a remarkable catch.
Dooley responded just 34 seconds later though, his block on Westmeath netminder Paddy Maloney’s clearance sending the sliotar to the net.
Dempsey had to make a full-length diving save to prevent Brendan Murtagh grabbing another leveller before Dooley pointed as he fell to bring a pulsating final quarter to a conclusion.
Westmeath were leading 0-2 to 0-1 when in the sixth minute, Maloney inexplicably took out Dooley under a high ball and the Tullamore veteran drilled his shot powerfully to the corner.
Undeterred Westmeath ensured that Offaly’s half-forward line gained no primary possession, while their own attackers flourished.
Darragh Egerton, Boyle, Aonghus Clarke and Robbie Greville pointed as the Lakesiders exerted complete control and had they been more accurate, would have led by more than 0-12 to 1-4 at the interval.
Kevin Ryan introduced Joe Bergin and Paddy Murphy at the break and both made a significant impact, as did Liam Langton.
Dooley was presented with a couple of good scoring opportunities from placed balls, while Bergin and Langton hit the target too as Offaly drew level.
A brace of Devine frees edged Westmeath ahead again but Emmet Nolan’s 64th goal, and Dooley’s three minutes later gave the Faithful County the advantage.
It was one they just held onto.
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) May 27, 2017
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 3-8 (0-5fs, 1-0 pen); E Nolan 1-1; O Kelly 0-2; P Guinan, D Shortt, L Langton, J Bergin 0-1 each
Scorers for Westmeath: A Devine 0-10(8fs, 1 65); K Doyle 1-2; J Boyle 0-3; N O’Brien (1 sideline) 0-2; R Greville, A Clarke, D Egerton 0-1 each
OFFALY: J Dempsey, B Conneely, D Shortt, E Grogan, S Gardiner, A Treacy, D King, P Guinan, S Ryan, E Nolan, S Dooley, O Kelly, S Cleary, S Kinsella (L Langton 48), P Geraghty
Subs: P Murphy for Treacy ht; J Bergin for Geraghty ht; L Langton for Kinsella 48, S Quirke for Cleary 51, C Kiely for Guinan 59
WESTMEATH: P Maloney, S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher, A Craig, P Greville, C Shaw, A Clarke, G Greville, C Boyle, K Doyle, J Boyle, R Greville, N O’Brien, A Devine
Subs: D Egerton for Gallagher 16, J Galvin for O’Brien 38-41, J Galvin for Power 63, B Murtagh for O’Brien 67
REFEREE: S Cleere (Kilkenny)