MATCH REPORT: Offaly lose eight-point lead in narrow Westmeath defeat

Justin Kelly

Reporter:

Justin Kelly

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news@offalyexpress.ie

MATCH REPORT: Offaly lose eight-point lead in narrow Westmeath defeat

Offaly 0-12

Westmeath 0-13

Westmeath staged a storming comeback from eight points down to claim a one-point victory over Offaly in the first round of Division 3 of the Allianz Football League at Bord n.a. Mona O'Connor Park. 

Both teams started slowly in biting cold conditions in Tullamore with plenty of handpases back and forth across the pitch and a collection of handling errors.

Bernard Allen was the most lively and once ball started coming into him, he produced a number of offensive marks. He converted a point from one such catch in the fourth minute. 

David Dempsey marauded up from corner back to slot over Offaly's second a minute later before new Kilmacud Crokes acquisition Shane Horan belted over a fine point from distance. 

Offaly were playing with a strong breeze and Anton Sullivan made the most of it when he powered over another point from range to make it 0-4 to 0-0 after ten minutes.

The game was getting bogged down in midfield as both teams tried to take control but Offaly made most of the breeze with both wing backs and Shane Horan playing plenty of passes low into the channels for Bernard Allen and Ruairi McNamee. 

Panda tagged on two more points before the 20 minute mark as Westmeath languished, confined to three wides and a number of shots that fell in Paddy Dunican's arms. 

Another stagnant period followed as the game went eight minutes without a score before Westmeath's Ger Egan found the posts and Ronan O'Toole followed it with a corker from the outside of his boot, making it 0-6 to 0-2 with almost 30 minutes played. 

Kieran Martin and Ruairi McNamee traded points late on with Offaly running in at the break in a 0-7 to 0-3 lead, facing into a second half against the considerable breeze. 

Despite the breeze at their backs in the second period, Westmeath made a sluggish start. Offaly scored the first four points of the second half thanks to a Bernard Allen brace of frees, Ruairi McNamee and a Peter Cunningham free.

The wind was always going to be a factor and as expected, Westmeath took off, most notably in midfield,  running through at will. Substitute Luke Loughlin was on the pitch a matter of seconds when he buried over a solid score, followed by fellow substitute Denis Corroon, making it 0-11 to 0-5.

Westmeath were on a march and even as the home team flooded midfield in an attempt to arrest the takeover, Offaly had a bit part to play in the second half. Between the 50th and 62nd minutes, the impressive Ger Egan scored four points without reply, putting just two between the teams. 

Led by the powerful running presence of Kieran Martin, Westmeath took the lead six minutes later thanks to further scores from Ronan O'Toole, Sam Duncan and Luke Loughlin. 

With their once eight-point lead completely overturned, Offaly needed a mini revival to rescue a point and they got that break when a mishit Cunningham free fell into the arms of substitute Shane Tierney. He instinctively turned in the spot and kicked a point over his shoulder. 

Westmeath were more dangerous with the ball, however, and it was fitting that the inspirational Kieran Martin made a run up field and buried the winning score. Offaly were reduced to a distance free attempt from goalkeeper Paddy Dunican to salvage a draw but unfortunately for the home support,  his shot fell short, bringing about the referee's final whistle. 

Offaly will be disappointed to throw away an eight-point lead and should have been far enough ahead to defy the wind in the second half. They will have to improve considerably for next week's game against Longford. 

The final score was Offaly  0-12, Westmeath 0-13.