Westmeath manager Jack Cooney praised his side's character after they played over 25 minutes with just 14 players and still managed to defeat Fermanagh by two points at windswept TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Westmeath, who started with the gale-force wind, led by 0-7 to 0-1 at the break, but then suffered the loss of forward Luke Loughlin who was sent off for a second yellow card offence in the 47th minute.
Fermanagh closed the gap to two points but poor shooting, wrong options, and some fine defending by Westmeath ensured the Ulster side went home pointless.
It's a second win for Cooney's men, following the victory over Clare: “I thought our boys battled really, really hard in that second half. We were very disciplined in our defending and then we got three crucial scores in the second half to give us a little bit of breathing space.
“We might have forced it a little in the first half with the wind, but against the wind we showed a lot more composure.”
The strong wind advantage allowed Ronan O’Toole, David Lynch, Callum McCormack, and Ray Connellan to all point from play while John Heslin added three frees. Conall Jones had opened the Fermanagh account from a free after 27 minutes, while Westmeath’s new goalkeeper Jason Daly had blocked Stephen McGullion’s goalbound effort.
Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin felt his side lost the game in that first half.
“It was a very poor performance by us. We had the chances but we didn’t take them. We have to ask questions of the players and of ourselves. As a collective we weren’t great and this is probably two points dropped.
“We have lost to Kildare and beaten Roscommon, but after this defeat we have to look at survival now”.
The second half saw Heslin add another free for Westmeath, before Fermanagh struck three in a row from Shane McGullion, Aidan Breen and Stephen McGullion.
Ray Connellan, who earlier squandered a good goal chance, then scored a vital point for Westmeath, before they were reduced to 14 players.
Goalkeeper Jason Daly produced another fine save for the home side, this time denying Conall Jones a goal. The Ulster side, with the strong wind behind, them lobbed over three more points — two from Ryan Jones and one from Breen.
However, some excellent defensive play by Westmeath’s Boidu Sayeh, Paddy Holloway and Kevin Maguire limited Fermanagh’s chances.
A John Heslin free gave Westmeath a vital cushion as Fermanagh struck four poor wides and saw one effort strike the post in the final tense ten minutes.
Westmeath manager Jack Cooney was delighted his side had bounced back from last week’s defeat, saying, “It was an important week for us. We were very disappointed to have lost in Cavan, but the lads showed great maturity and character and we learned a lot.
“I feel we have pushed on from our defeat last week. We must continue to learn going into the Armagh game”.
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (0-5 frees); R Connellan (0-2); R O’Toole, D Lynch, C McCormack (0-1 each).
Scorers for Fermanagh: C Jones (frees), A Breen, R Jones (0-2 each); S McGullion, S McGullion (0-1 each).
WESTMEATH: J Daly; J Smith, R Wallace, B Sayeh; P Holloway, K Maguire, J Dolan; D Corroon, R Connellan; K Daly, R O’Toole, D Lynch; C McCormack, J Heslin, L Loughlin.
Subs used: S Duncan for C McCormack (53 mins), A McGivney for P Holloway (67 mins), T McDaniel for R O’Toole (70+2 mins).
FERMANAGH: J McGrath; J Cassidy, E Sheils, K McDonnell; D McCusker, D McGurn, S McGullion; E Donnelly, R Jones; A Breen, U Kelm, C Corrigan; S McGullion, C Jones, L McStravick.
Subs used: D Teague for L McStravick (22 mins), M McCauley for E Sheils (57 mins), E McManus for K McDonnell (61 mins), N Cosgrove for D McGurn (67 mins).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).