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Laois boss Sugrue backs goalkeeper Brody after costly error in Division 3 final
Graham Brody was a long way from his goals when he kicked away possession, leading to Ger Egan’s goal.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

GRAHAM BRODY BECAME the latest goalkeeper to get caught out and concede a goal after venturing upfield in yesterday’s Division 3 final. 

Graham Brody is caught off his line prior to conceding a goal Oisin Keniry / INPHO Graham Brody is caught off his line prior to conceding a goal. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

The Portlaoise stopper was a long way from home when he won on a free just beyond his 45m line and miscued a pass to Trevor Collins. Within 11 seconds, the ball was nestled in Brody’s goals.

Westmeath won by three points, so it’s fair to say that play was the difference between the teams.

Back in January’s All-Ireland intermediate club semi-final An Spideál keeper and Galway panellist Manus Breathnach went on a solo run up the pitch and spilled the ball in a tackle.

Naomh Eanna midfielder Joe Maskey was first on the scene and he pinged the ball from just inside the 45 into the net. 

Two weeks ago, Ruairi Lavelle was on his half-back line when Mattie Donnelly intercepted a loose pass and rolled the ball into an empty net for Tyrone. Peter Harte almost bagged another goal when the Galway keeper’s goals were left unattended once again.

Despite Brody’s mistake, Laois boss John Sugrue insisted he’d continue to encourage his goalkeeper to offer his defenders overlaps.

“It was a killer goal, against it was just (poor) execution,” he said.

“I’m in this job 18 months, Graham has come out north of 100 times, I think we conceded one (goal) in Leitrim last year, again an execution issue.

“That’s the second one today. So of 100 patterns of play that he’s been involved in, two goals is probably not a big return for the opposition. It’s one goal, it’s a fairly significant one today but they’re the margins you’re playing with.”

Former Roscommon boss Kevin McStay highlighted the rise in modern goalkeepers who stray too far from their line on The Sunday Game a couple of weeks ago, sparking a debate on the matter.

Sean O Siochru shakes hands with Sean O Cuana after the game Oisin Keniry / INPHO Sugrue shakes hands with Jack Cooney after the game. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Victorious Westmeath boss Jack Cooney can see why the tactic has become more popular in recent seasons.

“There’s probably a very small percentage of keepers who actually do it, but the way the game is going now possession is key,” he explained.

“If you can get the kickout away short and retain possession then brilliant, the keeper is an option to hold possession and continue to play on further down the pitch. I think Graham is an exceptional goalkeeper, an exceptional outfield player, he was just unfortunate that he was turned over and got caught today.

“We took full advantage of that. I think goalkeeping in general has revolutionised over the last generation of players or so, I think it’s brought football to a different dimension in terms of gaining possession of kickouts and so on.

“Where it’s going to go, how that’s going to develop from here on, I don’t know,” he added. 

The Division 3 title was the second trophy Westmeath have claimed under the management Cooney, who is still just months into the job.

Ger Egan celebrates with his team mates after the game Oisin Keniry / INPHO Ger Egan celebrates with his team mates. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

The Coralstown/Kinnegad man lined out at midfield for the county during the 1990s and became the first native Westmeath manager in 26 years when he was appointed last winter.

Cooney was joint-manager of Rhode for their Offaly title win last year, having previously served as coach with Rory Gallagher’s Donegal and selector during Paidi Ó Sé’s reign in charge of the Lake County.

He brought highly-rated coach and former Offaly forward Paschal Kellaghan – who spent last season with the Tipperary footballers – on board and they’ve enjoyed a bright start to the season.

“It’s easier to deliver the message that hard work can pay off,” said Cooney.

The lads have been working very hard. It certainly would have been a bit of a hollow statement last week if we hadn’t got promoted, considering all the work they’ve put in. So delighted for the lads.

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“It is great for the lads to get a good experience in Croke Park after the last number of outings here. No matter what the occasion it is still good to get a good experience, I’m delighted for them.

“They have worked very hard over the last number of weeks and months going back before Christmas. Our motto has just been taking each game as it comes and after last week this was a quick turnaround.

So I’m delighted the lads were able to muster up the energy to go out there to put up a winning performance.”

The sides will meet for a third time this season at the end of May in the last eight of Leinster. 

“Both teams are very familiar with each other,” said Cooney.

“We had an important win against Laois in the earlier rounds of the league, it kind of got us back on track after losing to Down up in Newry.

“Today, a cup was at stake but both teams will settle down now and review this game and look forward to six or seven weeks down the line.”

Westmeath players wear t-shirts in support of Lee Wallace Oisin Keniry / INPHO Westmeath players wear t-shirts in support of Lee Wallace. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

The Westmeath players donned t-shirts that showed their support for Lee Wallace after the game and captain Kieran Martin mentioned the Rochfortbridge native in his acceptance speech.

26-year-old club footballer Wallace is battling a rare form of cancer and the Laois squad generously held a whip-round before the game, dropping €250 into the Westmeath dressing room to be put towards the fundraising efforts for his medical expenses.

“It brings everything into perspective in terms of sport,” sad Cooney.

“The great thing about the GAA, there’s a great sense of community and supporting people.

“Lee Wallace is a very good friend of a lot of the lads on the team. He has a big battle ahead of himself and anything we can do to help Lee along the way we are humbled to do that.” 

You can donate, find out more and ‘Help Lee Beat Cancer’ here

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