WESTMEATH 2-14 GALWAY 4-17
Cyril Donnellan’s hat-trick of goals failed to gloss over what was a lacklustre performance from Galway in Mullingar.
With Andrew Mitchell, Ciaran Curley and Brendan Murtagh prominent, gutsy Westmeath fought back to level this Leinster SHC quarter-final at 3-09 to 2-12.
But a strong finish from the Tribesmen, which included Donnellan’s 68th-minute goal and three frees from substitute Joe Canning, sealed their win.
Donnellan and Aonghus Callinan had netted for the visitors in the first half, with Derek McNicholas’ goal reducing the arrears to 2-07 to 1-07 on the stroke of half-time.
Athenry native Brian Hanley only took over as Westmeath manager in April but buoyed by their first win of the year against Carlow, the hosts were in no mood to roll over here.
Maintaining a high work-rate from defence to attack, Hanley’s side shrugged off a series of early wides to end the opening half just three points adrift.
Injury-hit Galway, whose starting line-up showed nine changes from last year’s qualifier loss to Tipperary, moved into a 0-03 to 0-00 lead thanks to Donnellan, Damien Hayes and Joe Gantley.
Wing back Eoin Price drove forward in impressive fashion to register the first score for Westmeath, who hit five wides in the opening seven minutes.
Still, their persistence paid off. Dual player Murtagh teed up points for Dan Carthy and Paul Greville and also clipped over a free for a 0-04 to 0-03 turnaround.
Despite turning over possession on a number of occasions, Galway always looked capable for moving up through the gears. After a near miss from Hayes, Donnellan found the bottom left corner of the net in the 14th minute to punish Westmeath for failing to clear the ball out of defence.
Andy Smith, Gantley and free-taker David Burke (0-02) added points to Galway’s tally over the next 15 minutes, with captain Brian Smyth, Mitchell (‘65’) and Murtagh popping over scores for Westmeath.
Galway’s lead was stretched to 2-07 to 0-07 courtesy of Callinan’s goal, which was created by good play from Championship debutant Johnny Coen and Hayes’ final hand pass.
However, Westmeath cancelled that score out with a late goal – Derek McNicholas, the only personnel change from the Carlow game, got a touch to a long ball in from free-taker Mitchell.
The pace increased in the second half and there was no sign of the Lakesiders dropping away. Burke and Curley traded early points before substitute Adam Price blocked a shot on the Westmeath goal-line.
But it looked ominous when teenage goalkeeper Cathal Scally was beaten for a second time by Donnellan, in the 43rd minute, and Donnellan and Barry Daly combined to set up Hayes for a point.
A rocket of a shot from Paul Greville gave Westmeath another goal and huge impetus. Murtagh tagged on a free and when a short Galway puckout broke down, Carthy pointed for a 3-09 to 2-10 scoreline.
Hanley’s charges had the bit between their teeth and Galway were not tight enough as their lead was whittled away with two further scores, including another Murtagh free.
Yet, from there to the finish, Galway showed great composure to close out a hard-fought but deserved win. Scally was well placed to nick a Hayes shot over his crossbar, and Burke followed up with a free for a two-point advantage.
With the mercurial Joe Canning now on the pitch, John McIntyre’s men were beginning to stretch Westmeath again and scores from Daly and Hayes had them in control.
A block from Donnellan, arguably Galway’s best perfomer, led to a point from Eanna Ryan and fellow substitute Canning converted a free for a 3-15 to 2-12 lead.
Paddy Dowdall, who was sprung from the Westmeath bench, broke up Galway’s scoring streak, but Donnellan’s third goal, with Gantley providing the assist, killed off their challenge.
Free-takers Canning and Murtagh finished out the scoring as the westerners advanced to a June 18 semi-final against Division 1 champions Dublin, knowing that a repeat of this display will not be good enough.
Scorers: Westmeath: B Murtagh 0-05 (0-05f), P Greville 1-01, D McNicholas 1-00, D Carthy 0-02, C Curley, B Smyth, E Price, A Mitchell ('65'), P Dowdall, J Shaw 0-01 each.
Galway: C Donnellan 3-01, A Callinan 1-01 (0-01f), D Hayes 0-04, J Canning (0-03f); D Burke (0-02f) 0-03 each, J Gantley 0-02, A Smith, B Daly, E Ryan 0-01 each
WESTMEATH: C Scally; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; N Flanagan, B Smyth (capt); C Curley, P Greville, B Murtagh; J Shaw, D McNicholas, D Carthy.
Subs used: A Price for C Flanagan (33 mins), P Dowdall for N Flanagan (51), J Gilligan for McGrath (61), A Dermody for Carthy (64), A Craig for McNicholas (70+1).
GALWAY: J Skehill; D Joyce (capt), D Collins, F Moore; J Coen, J Lee, A Cullinane; D Burke, K Hynes; B Daly, C Donnellan, A Smith; D Hayes, J Gantley, A Callinan.
Subs used: E Ryan for Smith (47 mins), S Kavanagh for Cullinane (53), T Og Regan for Lee (55), J Canning for Callinan (57).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois)