VERY few people know this, but tomorrow would have represented an unwelcome landmark for the stuck-in-a-rut Westmeath senior footballers ... the 600th day since they last registered a competitive win.
Scratch that intro: the famine is over!
Against the odds and against an ominous backdrop - last Sunday's demoralising defeat to Meath - Westmeath emerged from the slough of despond to slay a fancied DCU in the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup last night.
They did so in thrilling fashion, holding on to win a high-scoring clash by a single point. Dublin U21 star Conor McHugh left local nerves on tenterhooks, blasting over an injury-time 13m free, but Westmeath won the next critical possession to end a run of 15 straight defeats.
Tom Cribbin's embattled crew made the short trip to Kinnegad, hoping to end this seemingly endless barren run for many reasons - to kickstart a new season under a new manager, to keep their Group C hopes even fleetingly alive, to restore a modicum of self-belief long since mired at rock-bottom, or simply to stop being reminded of such ghoulish statistics in the first place.
Not since cruising past Carlow, on May 19 2013, have Westmeath tasted this tantalising sensation. It's only the O'Byrne Cup yet this felt like it really mattered. The fact that it came against a college team won't matter a whit.
Fresh from blitzing Longford at the weekend, DCU brought a smattering of inter-county class to Kinnegad but were stung by the concession of a goal after just 17 seconds, wing-back James Dolan revealing his forward roots as he rifled home a sweet low shot.
DCU steadied themselves, aided by a McHugh brace, to trail by 0-4 to 1-2 at the end of the first quarter.
But then Westmeath found their second wind, bolstered by Ger Egan's looping 24th minute shot over goalkeeper Tadgh Lowe.
However, the hosts' brittle confidence must surely have been tested by a self-inflicted body blow just on half-time. First a Dolan pass coming out of defence was intercepted; then 'keeper Darren Quinn failed to deal convincingly with Niall Murphy's high delivery. The ball fell to Conor McGraynor and he teed up Conor McNally for a simple palmed finish: 2-5 to 1-6 at the break.
The contest remained finely balanced through a lively second half. Inspired by McHugh DCU drew level; Lorcan Smyth then goaled on the rebound for Westmeath before Davy Byrne fisted to the net in response.
Ultimately, though, some booming Connellan frees kept Westmeath noses in front. Victory - at last.
SCORERS - Westmeath: G Egan 1-4 (2f), R Connellan 0-7 (5f), J Dolan, L Smyth 1-0 each. DCU: C McHugh 0-8 (4f), C McNally 1-1, D Byrne 1-0, R Connor 0-2, M Quinn, N Murphy 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; J Gilligan, K Maguire, T Mescall; D Dolan, K Martin, J Dolan; P Sharry, P Holloway; R Connellan, G Egan, J Stapleton; A Coffey, L Smyth, D McCormack. Subs: J Egan for McCormack (20), M McCallon for Gilligan (45), D Lynch for D Dolan (45), D Whelan for Smyth (68), K Daly for Coffey (68).
DCU: T Lowe; J Smith, D Wynne, D Ward; C Daly, C Boyle, M Quinn; T Flynn, S O'Brien; C McNally, N Murphy, D Byrne; E Keane, C McGraynor, C McHugh. Subs: C Begley for Quinn (30), C Moynagh for Boyle (ht), R Connor for Keane (ht), F Kelly for Ward (43), S McCoy for McNally (53), D Smith for Murphy (62).
WIDES: Westmeath 6 (3+3); DCU 8 (4+4). YELLOW: Westmeath 1 (J Egan 49); DCU 2 (Byrne 29, Kelly 67). BLACK: DCU 1 (Flynn 70).
REF: A Nolan (Wicklow)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ray Connellan (Westmeath).
The students of DCU stand between Meath and an O'Byrne Cup semi-final spot after the Royals put back to back victories together at Pairc Tailteann last night.
It took the home side a while to settle into the game but once they did, Longford had no answer and were well beaten before the final whistle.
With Meath notching nine successive points before Longford opened their account in the second half, it left the score 1-14 to 1-5 and at that stage the game was over as a contest.
O'Byrne Cup Round 2
Dublin 0-17 Offaly 0-13; Laois 1-7 Maynooth University 0-18; Kildare 2-7 Carlow 1-9; Meath 1-17 Longford 1-9; Westmeath 3-11 DCU 2-13;
Wexford 1-13 IT Carlow 0-13; Wicklow 1-12 DIT 3-10.