Galway produced a disappointing performance in Mullingar Saturday evening but still ran out 4-16 to 2-14 winners over Westmeath. The eight point victory slightly flattered the visitors. Westmeath hit fifteen wides and could have pushed the Tribesmen closer if not for their prolificacy in front of goal.
Cyril Donnellan was the hero for Galway, scoring 3-1. All three of his goals were critical for Galway, with the third ending the Westmeath resistance in the dying minutes.
Westmeath started the livelier of the teams, but early misses cost them dear. By the 11th minute, Westmeath had already fired six shots wide of goal. Galway missed a decent goal chance when Cathal Scally made a fine save in the 13th minute with the teams tied on three points. The Westmeath goalkeeper could do nothing to stop Donnellan’s first goal one minute later. Damien Hayes then hit the woodwork for Galway as the Tribesmen threatened to run riot.
Westmeath hit their ninth wide in the 29th minute, but were only three points behind the Westerners. Galway, however, scored their second goal in the 32nd minute to open up a six point lead.
Westmeath responded well, scoring 1-1 in the closing minutes of the first half. The goal came from a long free, which was flicked into the net.
Westmeath trailed by 2-7 to 1-7 at half-time, with the Midlanders hitting a costly 10 wides.
Galway improved after the interval and could have scored two goals in the first six minutes of the second half. Damien Hayes struck the sliotar just wide in the 37th minute, while Adam Price cleared a Joe Gantley shot off the line.
Galway’s pressure finally paid dividends in the 43rd minute, when Donnellan scored his second goal to give the Tribesmen a six point lead.
Galway would have expected to pull away after amassing a comfortable lead, but the sides were level again eight minutes later. Paul Greville scored a goal in the 46th minute to give Westmeath hope, while Dan Carty and Brendan Murtagh struck points. A controversial umpire decision to call a wide for Westmeath was then overturned by the referee to leave the scores level with 19 minutes to play.
The Midlanders’ hopes were short lived, as Galway started to pull away. Joe Canning came off the bench for Galway and made a difference. Barry Daly then scored in the 59th minute to ensure all six starting forwards had scored for Galway.
A host of Galway points left them with a five point lead with three minutes to play. Donnellan completed his hat trick in the 68th to finish the match as a contest.
While Galway entered the match as favourites and ran out eight point victors, the Tribesmen will be disappointed with their performance. Huge question marks surround Galway entering the Leinster semi final against Dublin.
Galway team: J Skehill, D Joyce, 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
Westmeath team: C Scally; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; N Flanagan, B Smyth (captain); C Curley, P Greville, B Murtagh; J Shaw, D McNicholas, D Carty