Westmeath retains Leinster status with thrashing of Laois in round robin final

Following their draw with Wexford a week ago, many pundits saw Westmeath winning this final match of the Leinster Hurling round-robins.

But certainly not this way, as The Lake County retained their Leinster Championship status for next year with a 24-point drubbing of Laois at Portlaoise.

Now, Laois must hope that Kerry wins the Joe McDonagh Cup final next weekend if they want to be in the top competition next year.

If Antrim wins the final, Laois is relegated.

Westmeath was worth it for his victory, playing the best hurling all the time and always looking like the winners. His hitting was sharper, cleaner and his players were always looking to find the man in the space.

No wonder they put pressure on both Kilkenny and Dublin even before that effort against Wexford.

The goals came for Westmeath in the second half and in the end they were worth every point of the 18-point margin.

The winners always played accurately, moved the ball around the field with precision, and were always looking for their man.

For the second half of the game, Westmeath manager Joe Fortune made a tactical call that worked like a dream.

He moved the great Niall Mitchell forward and started throwing the ball on top of him.

Mitchell won two clean balls and passed them to Niall O’Brien and Eoin Keyes for two Westmeath goals.

And he also raised a couple of green flags for himself as Westmeath turned on the style and sped away from his hapless hosts. Mitchell was a deserved Man of the Match for his one-man demolition job on the Laois defense in the second period.

This has been a difficult campaign for Laois and it has ended in bitter disappointment and a shocking loss for a team that Laois would always believe they could beat.

They have been beset by injuries and by players opting out of the panel and, with the exception of the Dublin match, have been beaten in every game they have played in the Leinster round-robin.

They need to rebuild, and a year in Joe McDonagh’s land might not be the worst for them.

SCORERS- LAOIS: R King 0-7 4f’s E Rowland 0-4 4f’s P Purcell 1-1 J Keyes 0-2 B Conroy 0-2 C Dwyer 0-1 P Dunne 0-1

WEST: K Doyle 0-8 4f’s E Keyes 2-1 N Mitchell 2-0 N O’Brien 1-3 J Boyle 0-4 D Glennon 0-3 J Galvin 0-2 C Boyle 0-1 J Gillen 0-1 A Craig 0-1

LAOIS: E. Rowland; Dunne P, Downey S, Hartnett D; Mullaney R, McEvoy C, Fennell F; J Kelly, L O’Connell; Purcell P, Dwyer C, Keyes J; B Conroy, R King, S Maher- Substitutes: A Corby for Dunne ht PJ Scully for Maher and T. Keyes for Kelly 55 min W Dunphy for Conroy and E Killeen for Mullaney 57 min

WEST: N Conaty; Galvin J, Shaw C, Egerton D; R Greville, A Craig, T Doyle; C Boyle, A Clarke; Glennon D, Keyes E, NO’Brien; N Mitchell, J Boyle, K Doyle. Substitutes: D. McNicholas for O’Brien 57 minutes K Regan for C Boyle 63 minutes S McGovern for Greville 66 minutes J Gillen for Keyes 68 minutes sfdsdfsdf

Referee: C. Cunning (Antrim)

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