Westmeath 2-12 Manhattan Gaels 0-7
Aug. 19, 2022 By Micky Quigg
If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try and try again.
That was certainly the case for Westmeath NY last Sunday as the club clinched its first-ever New York Senior Football Championship title with a dominant performance against Manhattan Gaels at Gaelic Park.
Westmeath raced into an early lead and had amassed a 2-6 to 2 point lead shortly after the first water break and never looked back – commanding the game from there on in to make it fourth year lucky following three consecutive final defeats.
“It was more or less a perfect game,” said Westmeath manager Michael Caterson afterward.
“We’ve had a very strong bench this year, a very strong squad so we knew if we played our game we would win.”
Phelim Finegan got Westmeath off to a great start with a lovely right-footed point from the 35-meter mark, followed by midfielder Mark Nally who pointed after a powerful run from the middle of the pitch.
Corner forward Darren Moore added a brace while Manhattan Gaels on the other hand just couldn’t find their bearings despite the best efforts of Jamie Davis and John Collins.
Their cause wasn’t helped when star-man and sharp-shooter Eoghan Carew was shown a black card referee Pat Donohoe within the opening few minutes.
Carew did his time and came back just before the water break but by then much of the damage had already been done.
Finnigan and Adam Stones had also pointed while Darren Moore punished a Manhattan Gaels kick-out mishap – Stones palming a loose ball to Moore who rifled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
At the water break, Westmeath had amassed 1-6 while Gaels failed to register a single score.
After hydration, more bad news hit the Gaels as they were reduced to 14 again when Gearoid Looney was shown black.
However, Gary Maguire was able to finally get the Gaels on the scoreboard after 17 minutes thanks to some nice teamwork by Carew and Collins.
David Carrick then doubled the blue and white tally with a lovely score off his right foot after some very patient build-up play.
But just as the Gaels were finding their rhythm Dalton McDonagh landed a sucker-punch blow when he poked the ball into the Pauric Looney’s net with a diving fist – Westmeath now in cruise control leading by 2-6 to 0-2.
Despite some good patches of play by the Gaels, they struggled to get the ball into the dangerous scoring zones and were reduced to some wayward long-distance efforts.
Veteran and captain Keith Scally stood strong in full-back for Westmeath and he was well accompanied by the newly recruited Paidi Mathers in the corner. Both men were the springboard for plenty of Westmeath attacks.
Phelim Finnegan pointed to stretch the lead to 11 before Carew – who was playing with a partial cruciate ligament tear – pulled one back for Westmeath but Adam Stones then added his second of the day soon after.
Gaels manager Enda Williams must have given his lads a few stern words as Manhattan came out all-guns-blazing for the second half. After winning a scant amount of breaking ball in the opening 30 minutes, the ball seemed to gravitate towards the Gaels in the second 30 with Fergal O’Brien and Stephen Nolan picking up plenty of possession.
Despite a greater amount of possession in the third quarter, Manhattan struggled to convert it into scores.
They appeared to be given a lifeline on the 40-minute mark when Westmeath’s Trevor Holloway – who had been covering plenty of ground all afternoon – was shown a black card for a late challenge. A shot at goal from the resulting free by Gary Maguire was well-saved and smothered by keeper Pat Guerin only for referee Donohoe to penalize him for overcarrying in the small square.
Up stepped Carew who placed the ball to Guerin’s left-hand side but the shot-stopper pulled off a vital save at full stretch to deny the goal and scupper any Manhattan comeback.
Stones and Finegan then pointed to extend the Westmeath tally, while Jamie Davis registered the first point of the second half for Manhattan followed by a Maguire white flag.
Thomas O’Kane and substitute Elliot Maguire were making an impact for Manhattan, but fellow substitute Luke Kelly, as well as Mark Nally, were impressing for Westmeath. The score heading into the last water break, 2-10 to 0-6.
Westmeath just needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over and not concede any goals and the trophy was surely theirs.
Again, with good work from Killian Coleman and Aidan Long, Manhattan had chances to claw back into the game but the shots just kept drifting wide. To worsen matters, Aidan Long picked up Manhattan’s third black card of the afternoon for a challenge on Adam Stones – who converted the subsequent free.
Stones and Maguire traded scores again but Westmeath were well in the driving seat.
Quality game management and slick passing from the Lake County saw the Gaelic Park clock tick vital minutes away.
Westmeath manager Michael Caterson had his tactics spot on and – having taken vital lessons in defeat over the last few years – Westmeath had the know-how to see the game out and clinch an elusive first intermediate title.
They will now return to senior next year, their first time at the top level since 2005.
Manhattan Gaels will be disappointed no doubt but it was the club’s first appearance in an intermediate final since its formation in 2013, and, having won Junior A and B titles in recent years this group will definitely be back.
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