Galway progress despite poor defensive display

Westmeath 4-12 Galway 5-19

Westmeath 4-12 Galway 5-19

Despite leaking four goals to a determined Westmeath side, Galway still managed to progress to the semi-final stage of the Leinster Championship relatively unscathed.

Second half goals from David Burke (2), Andy Smith and Cyril Donnellan steered the Tribesmen through to the last-four at Cusack Park.

But their manager Anthony Cunningham will have to work on a disappointing defensive unit that afforded the hosts too much time and space.

Westmeath, who were 1-12 to 0-4 behind at the break, roused themselves with their own glut of second half goals - promising teenager Niall O’Brien grabbed a double and Joe Clarke and Brendan Murtagh also netted.

However, Galway’s greater rate of scoring meant that they ran out comfortable 10-point winners in the end, setting up a last-four date with Offaly in a fortnight’s time.

Cunningham's charges will undoubtedly face a stiffer challenge in that semi-final but they laboured at times this afternoon, failing to put Westmeath to the sword after they led by 4-14 to 2-6.

Wearing white to avoid a colour clash, Galway started without Joe Canning in attack.

The Portumna man injured his shoulder in a challenge game against Clare earlier in the week and was withdrawn from the starting line-up.

Conor Cooney took over from Canning up front and he slotted Galway's third point after two early frees from Championship newcomer Niall Burke.

Burke continued to knock frees over as the first half progressed, moving the visitors 0-5 to 0-1 ahead, before Westmeath goalkeeper Shane McGovern reacted well to deny Cooney a certain goal.

Galway's opening goal eventually came in the 26th minute and with them already 0-9 to 0-2 to the good. Substitute James Regan, who replaced Davy Glennon, managed to beat McGovern with a shot from a narrow angle.

Minor star O'Brien just about kept the midlanders in touch, landing three of their four first half points, with closing scores from Cooney, Damien Hayes, David Burke and Iarla Tannian widening the margin to 11 by half-time.

Westmeath suffered another setback early in the second half as David Burke flashed home the first of his goals, finishing off some good work from Regan, Smith and Hayes.

But the majority of the 2,515-strong crowd received a boost when midfielder Clarke burst through for a well-taken goal which pared the gap back to 2-12 to 1-6.

The goals were soon coming thick and fast in Mullingar with Burke and O'Brien both raising green flags and then Donnellan, who found the net three times against Westmeath last summer, drove home to move Galway 4-14 to 2-16 ahead.

Both defences gave way too easily as Smith and O'Brien traded goals and with five minutes left on the clock, Murtagh beat Galway goalkeeper Fergal Flannery to register the Lakesiders' fourth goal.

That left Brian Hanley's men with a nine-point deficit to overcome.

A further quick-fire goal might have put pressure on Galway, but they remained composed and outpointed the hosts over the remainder of the game.

Scorers - Westmeath: N O’Brien 2-7 (0-7f), B Murtagh 1-1 (1-0f), J Clarke 1-0, P Greville, J Shaw, E Price, D Fennell 0-1 each

Galway: N Burke 0-8 (0-6f, 0-2 '65'), D Burke 2-1, J Regan 1-2, A Smith, C Donnellan 1-1 each, C Cooney, D Hayes, I Tannian 0-2 each

WESTMEATH: S McGovern; C Jordan, A Price, P Fennell; P Dowdall, A McGrath, P Greville; A Clarke, J Clarke; B Murtagh, F Boyle, R Greville; N O’Brien, J Shaw, E Price.

Subs used: J Gilligan for Boyle (35 mins), D Fennell for J Clarke (61), T Gallagher for Jordan (66).

GALWAY: F Flannery; F Moore, K Hynes, N Donoghue; P Gordon, T Og Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, D Burke; A Smith, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Glennon, C Cooney, D Hayes.

Subs used: J Regan for Glennon (21 mins), J Glynn for Cooney (50), B Flaherty for Gordon (53), R Cummins for Donnellan (62), P Brehony for N Burke (69).

Referee: James Owens (Tipperary).

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