Heslin heroics keep Westmeath in the hunt
Westmeath 0-14 Fermanagh 1-9
By scoring six unanswered points in the final 12 minutes in Mullingar's Cusack Park yesterday, Westmeath secured what had looked at half-time like a most unlikely win, thereby joining their opponents Fermanagh just behind table-toppers Armagh in the race for promotion.
The first-half was a dour, defensive and eminently forgettable affair, with Rory Gallagher's charges playing whatever little bit of good football was on offer, as Westmeath struggled to find any rhythm.
Tommy McDaniel opened the home team's account after 80 seconds, but they could only add one more point - a free from John Heslin some 23 minutes later - during the remainder of the half.
Fermanagh were more direct and with Seamus Quigley on song from placed balls and open play, they were full value for their five-point interval lead (0-7 to 0-2).
An opportunist score by Ger Egan, following an underhit '45' by Heslin, and an inspirational point by the hard-working Luke Loughlin had Colin Kelly's troops just three points in arrears with 40 minutes on the clock.
Westmeath were unrecognisable from the opening half and the gap was down to the bare minimum (0-9 to 0-8) when substitute Eamonn Maguire cleverly rolled the ball to the net in the 58th minute against the run of play, for what looked like it would be the decisive score.
However, just a minute later Cian McManus was sent off (he got a black card to follow an earlier yellow) and the Ernesiders failed to add to their tally in the time remaining.
With the home crowd in full voice and with all of Kelly's subs playing significant roles, the Lake County men finished very strongly.
They still trailed by two points (1-9 to 0-10) at the end of normal time. A minimum of four minutes of added-time was announced, during which a fired-up outfit in maroon and white struck for four points - two converted frees by Heslin (whose move to full-forward for the second-half was hugely important), and one each from play by Loughlin and impressive late sub John Connellan.
Scorers - Westmeath: J Heslin 0-7 (5fs), L Loughlin 0-2, J Dolan, G Egan, R O'Toole, T McDaniel, J Connellan 0-1 each. Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-6 (5fs), E Maguire 1-0, B Mulrone, C Corrigan, A Breen 0-1 each.
Westmeath - E Carberry 6; M McCallon 4, F Boyle 6, K Daly 7; N Mulligan 7, A Stone 6, J Dolan 6; D Corroon 8, J Heslin 8; K Martin 6, G Egan 6, L Loughlin 8; J Egan 7, C McCormack 5, T McDaniel 6. Subs: J Gonoud 7 for McCallon (BC, 14), R Wallace 7 for McDaniel (h-t), R O'Toole 7 for J Egan (55), J Connellan 7 for McCormack (64), D Lynch n/r for Mulligan (70).
Fermanagh - T Treacy 6; M Jones 6, C Cullen 7, C McManus 5; B Mulrone 6, K Connor 7, D McCusker 7; E Donnelly 7, R Jones 6; C Corrigan 6, D Teague 5, A Breen 6; C McGee 6, C Jones 5, S Quigley 7. Subs: R Corrigan 5 for McGee (18), P McCusker 6 for Teague (25), S Quigley 6 for Donnelly (inj., h-t), E Maguire 7 for C Jones (42), T Corrigan 6 for R Corrigan (52), J McMahon 6 for S Quigley (60).
Ref - S Lonergan (Tipperary).
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