Westmeath stun Royals with heroic comeback in Croker cracker
Westmeath 3-19 Meath 2-18
History was made in Croke Park when Westmeath came back from the dead to record a first championship win in history over neighbours Meath.
The Royals were ten points up at one stage late in the first half and in that period looked like they’d run out handy winners.
Bryan McMahon goaled twice in the first half in what was an immediate reply to Kieran Martin’s first half effort but the Royals looked in total control as they played some brilliant stuff to open up a 2-12 to 1-7 lead that was only a hint of their dominance in the opening 35 minutes.
There was no immediate sign of their stunning comeback early in the second half but instead Westmeath stuck to their script and took most of their kick outs short.
They were patient and manful and gradually dug themselves out of what looked like a terminally bad position.
With 20 minutes to play they were just five points down as the central figures in Westmeath’s revival began to establish themselves.
John Heslin and Kieran Martin kept the flame alive and with Martin’s move to the forwards, the Lake men suddenly had traction. Between them the pair would hit 3-12 in a stunning performance.
At this stage, Meath were showing some of the faults that Wicklow had exploited. They were coughing up frees which Heslin converted with glee. And when the finish line came into view, there was only going to be one winner.
In all the Royals managed just six points in the second half but they might have snatched it when they went a point down at the death. They worked a late goal chance but McMahon was swallowed up in the area when he was about to pull the trigger.
Westmeath swept down field and Heslin goaled to finish the job to give them a deserved victory. Paddy O’Rourke was given a straight red in injury time as Westmeath progressed to a first Leinster final since 2004.
SCORERS - Westmeath: J Heslin 1-9 (5f), K Martin 2-3, S Dempsey, P Sharry (2 45), J Connellan 0-2 each, R Connellan 0-1.
Meath: B McMahon 2-2, G Reilly, E Wallace 0-4 each, S Bray 0-3, M Newman (1f), A Tormey (2f) 0-2 each, B Menton 0-1.
Westmeath: D Quinn; K Daly, K Maguire, J Gilligan; J Dolan, K Martin, P Holloway; P Sharry, D Daly; R Connellan, G Egan, D Corroon; L Smyth, J Heslin, S Dempsey SUBS: J Connellan for Daly (29), J Gonoud for Daly (30), D Lynch for Smyth (ht), D Glennon for Dempsey (39), P Greville for Gilligan (59), J Egan for Corroon (65).
Meath: P O’Rourke; D Tobin, C McGill, J McEntee; M Burke, D Keogan, B Menton; H Rooney, A Torme; G Reilly, P Harnan, K Reilly; E Wallace, S Bray, B McMahon SUBS: M Newman for Harnan (blood 18-19), A Flanagan for Rooney, D Dalton for Burke (both 45), M Newman for G Reilly (BC 47), B Power for Tormey (59), J Wallace for Tobin (BC 62) S Tobin for K Reilly (67).
Ref - C Lane (Cork)