/ GAA

Laois 3-14 Westmeath 1-09

Updated: Monday, 15 Apr 2013 15:46 | Comments

John Brophy scored two first-half goals
John Brophy scored two first-half goals

John Brophy's brace of first-half goals helped Laois overcome Westmeath 3-14 to 1-09 in the Allianz League Division 2A final in Tullamore.

Brophy's first goal in the fourth minute gave Seamus Plunkett's charges a lead they would not relinquish. He added his second six minutes later as Laois built a 2-07 to 0-06 interval lead.

Derek McNicholas (0-07) and Brendan Murtagh (1-01) did their best to keep Westmeath in touch, but Tommy Fitzgerald fired home Laois' third goal.

Westmeath entered today's final with a quartet of injuries, with Niall O'Brien playing through the pain barrier despite a quad muscle injury, while the Clarke brothers, Joe and Aonghus, and Tommy Gallagher were absent from the starting line-up - although Joe and Tommy did feature as substitutes.

Gallagher entered the fray after just 13 minutes, despite suffering a broken nose in the lead-up to the divisional decider.

He replaced Mark Keegan, who found Brophy too hot to handle, with manager Brian Hanley calling the Clonkill clubman ashore and handing a man-marking job to Gallagher.

Laois boss Plunkett, on the other hand, was able to field his strongest team with Matthew Whelan skippering the side from centre-back.

McNicholas fired the first of his seven points in the opening minute, but this was as good as it got for Westmeath. Willie Hyland equalised before Brophy converted his side's first goal in the fourth minute.

Brophy then cut in from the left, with Keegan left chasing him down, to make it two goals in six minutes and give the O'Moore men a 2-03 to 0-03 buffer.

A first point of the afternoon from Stephen Maher extended Laois' lead to seven points in the 14th minute. They had a firm dominance of midfield at this stage, with Joe Fitzpatrick and James Walsh cleaning up in the middle third.

Laois fired six wides inside the opening quarter and, in what were rare attacks at the opposite end from Westmeath, the O'Moore defence was able to shut them down.

Laois goalkeeper Eoin Reilly did well to cope with a dipping effort from Shane Power in the 19th minute, with Westmeath's first half scoring restricted in the main to placed balls.

Five of Westmeath's six first half points came from frees - four of them from McNicholas and the other slotted over by Murtagh.

Murtagh's point left two between the sides with 10 minutes to go before the break, but Laois rattled off a trio of points, including two from long range frees from captain Whelan, to take a 2-07 to 0-06 advantage into half-time.

The sides traded points on two occasions inside nine minutes of the restart, but Laois' third goal ensured that they had enough of a cushion to see out the win.

15 minutes into the half and with a double scores lead (2-10 to 0-08), Laois put the overworked Westmeath defence under further pressure.

Goalkeeper Peter Collins did well to deny Neil Foyle and Zane Keenan with successive point-blank saves in the 50th minute, but Tommy Fitzgerald was not to be denied as his rasper pushed Laois 11 points clear.

Westmeath were boosted when Brendan Murtagh blasted a 30-metre free to the net entering the final quarter, but Laois always looked the likely winners and outscored their midland opponents by four points to one in the closing quarter to take the silverware.

After the game Laois skipper Matthew Whelan received the cup from Leinster GAA chairman Martin Skelly.

LAOIS: E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Campion, JA Delaney; C Healy (0-01), M Whelan (0-02, 0-02f), G Burke; J Fitzpatrick, J Walsh; S Maher (0-07, 0-07f), Z Keenan (0-01), W Hyland (0-03); J Brophy (2-00), T Fitzgerald (1-00), B Dunne.

Subs used: N Foyle for Brophy (46 mins), W Dunphy for Fitzgerald (54), C Dunne for Hyland (66), B Conroy for Stapleton (70+1).

WESTMEATH: P Collins; M Keegan, A Price, P Fennell; P Gilsenan, C Jordan, D Fennell; E Price, S Power; R Greville, A McGrath, D McNicholas (0-07, 0-05f, 0-01 '65'); N O'Brien, B Murtagh (1-01, 0-01f), J Shaw (0-01).

Subs used: T Gallagher for Keegan (13 mins), G Greville for Gilsenan (32), T Doyle for D Fennell (44), A Price for McNicholas (54), J Clarke for Shaw (59).

Referee: Shane Hourigan (Limerick)

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