Two second-half Patrick Horgan penalties and a most fortuitous Bill Cooper goal got Cork out of jail at a mucky Mullingar this afternoon.
The visitors to the midlands looked in right trouble when Westmeath’s Allan Devine found the net from a 65 on 39 minutes to immediately cancel out the first of Horgan’s penalty strikes and, in the process, cut the gap to two at the beginning of a second-half for which the home side had the elements behind them.
Both sides were subsequently reduced to 14 as Damien Cahalane was shown a straight red card for his late involvement in a shemozzle on 43 minutes. Westmeath’s Joey Boyle also picked up a second yellow here, a decision which the home management were none too pleased with.
The gap was still at two on 55 minutes when a Cooper delivery popped out of the hand of Westmeath ‘keeper Aaron McHugh and into the net.
Devine and Aonghus Clarke sniped a pair of points to make it a three-point game, 2-10 to 1-10, but once again Westmeath’s charge was stymied by a Horgan penalty expertly put away eight minutes from time.
Westmeath owned much of the possession from there to the finish, but the six-point cushion Cork had established proved sufficient to see them home and deliver their second win of the league
For Westmeath, there was a massive sense of opportunity lost at the final whistle. It is difficult to see them getting a better opportunity this spring to take down a top-tier side.
Kieran Kingston’s charges were not in the best of shape returning back down the tunnel at half-time. With a gale behind them as proceedings got underway, it was expected that the visitors would stroll off into the distance at their ease. And the script was certainly heading in that direction when Horgan converted his fourth free in-a-row to leave the scoreboard reading 0-7 to 0-1 after 21 minutes.
But that was to prove Cork’s lot until Tim O’Mahony cut over a sideline three minutes into first-half stoppages, Westmeath reeling off four unanswered scores during their opponents’ 17-minute barren spell. Three from Devine (two frees) and a Boyle effort had the Lake County within two on 33 minutes and that deficit should have narrowed further but for Devine sending wide a run of the mill free 25 metres from goal.
There were other Westmeath wides during this spell which left the home side somewhat frustrated as they seized momentum off the back of sloppy and lackadaisical Cork play in the middle third.
That Cork, despite having a gale behind them, didn’t score from play from the 10th minute onward in the entire opening period said plenty about their first-half endeavours.
Indeed, between the 10th minute and final whistle, Cooper's goal was their sole score from play. And still, they got out of Mullingar alive.
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan (2-8, 2-0 pen, 0-8 frees); B Cooper (1-0); C Lehane (0-2); T O'Mahony (0-1 sc), L Meade (0-1 each).
Scorers for Westmeath: A Devine (1-8, 1-0 65, 0-7 frees); D Clinton, D McNicholas (0-2 each); A Clarke, J Boyle (0-1)
Cork: P Collins; S O’Leary Hayes, E Cadogan, C Spillane; T O’Mahony, B Cooper, D Cahalane; C O’Leary, L Meade; C Lehane, P Horgan, A Walsh; D Dalton, S Harnedy, J O’Connor.
Subs: S Twomey for Lehane (12 mins, inj); R Downey for Twomey (49); N O’Leary for Walsh (52); B Turnbull for J O’Connor (60)
Westmeath: A McHugh; A Ennis, T Doyle, C Shaw; A Craig, A Clarke, L Varley; C Boyle, E Price; J Boyle, R Greville, D McNicholas; A Devine, N Mitchell, C Doyle.
Subs: A Cox for Greville (nine-12 mins); D Clinton for Mitchell (45); Cillian Doyle for Ciaran Doyle (52); A Cox for Shaw (54); S McGovern for Greville (58); B Doyle for Ennis (55)
Referee: L Gordon (Galway).