Heslin penalty prompts recovery as Loman's leave it late for revenge
St Loman's 1-12 Mullinalaghta 1-11
As news from Aughrim, where St Vincent's had been toppled by Rathnew, filtered through to Pearse Park, quickly followed by word of Portlaoise's exit to Moorefield, the importance of St Loman's last-quarter winning surge was magnified.
Six points down with no real sign of urgency about them after 47 minutes, when talented Mullinalaghta forward Rian Brady kicked his side's last score for a 1-11 to 0-8 lead, Loman's left the pitch 20 minutes later to a standing ovation from the visiting support and the realisation that they are now in the mix for the most open Leinster club SFC for some time.
The Westmeath champions can dare to dream but they'll have to develop consistency.
For so long they were going nowhere against a Mullinalaghta side that hit them hard and often and were controlling the game until substitute Kieran Kilmurray was brought down by Paddy Fox on 53 minutes and John Heslin converted the penalty to leave them just a point in arrears.
With wind and now momentum, it put them firmly in the driving seat, and they were able to grind out a win with points from another sub Ciaran Lynam and Paddy Dowdall to exact revenge for last year's defeat at the same stage.
That point from Dowdall, more noted as a hurler, came in the first minute of seven added minutes played for a sequence of stoppages and had its source in Heslin breaking up an attack from the Longford men.
Heslin showed an early glimpse of the magic he can conjure with St Loman's first point, after a surging run from midfield where he had claimed a kick-out.
By that stage the three-in-a-row Westmeath kingpins were reeling from a quick 1-2 from the home side with Gary Rogers and James McGivney pointing either side of David McGivney's goal.
The home side put a lot of pressure on the St Loman's kick-out into the wind.
James McGivney's accuracy told with three fine points, and Gary Rogers chipped in with three.
Back-to-back monster frees from 50 metres from Heslin in the 50th and 51st minute nudged Loman's from their slumber, allied to the impact they got from their bench through Kilmurray, Lynam and Conrad Reilly.
Centre-forward Ronan O'Toole won both frees, taking breaks off kick-outs, and he really was the orchestrator of so much for the Mullingar side.
Manager Luke Dempsey felt the attitude had been right.
"We felt we left it behind us here last year," he said. "Those lads were very focused. We were very disappointed with the way we started, we weren't firing on all cylinders but we knew that there were players chomping at the bit. Those four (substitutes) really made the difference."
He credited Heslin too for his industry even when Loman's couldn't get him into the game as Mullinalaghta defenders Shane Mulligan, Conan Brady and Donal McElligott held firm.
"Even things are not going well for him you can see him in the second half getting back and blocking a crucial move," said Dempsey.
Mullinalaghta manager Mickey Graham reckoned the penalty turned the game.
"I felt we were managing the game well until the penalty and controlling everything," he reflected. "It was a killer blow. It'll be in the back of our minds, what might have been and it will be like that for a few days."
Scorers - St Loman's: J Heslin 1-7 (1-0 pen, 0-6fs), S Dempsey 0-2, K Casey, P Dowdall, C Lynam 0-1 each. Mullinalaghta: D McGivney 1-0, J McGivney, G Rogers, J Matthews (2fs) 0-3 each, R Brady 0-2.
St Loman's - J Daly; G Grehan, G Glennon, J O'Toole; D Whelan, P Dowdall, N O'Toole; P Sharry, S Flanagan; K Reilly, R O'Toole, D Windsor; K Casey, J Heslin, S Dempsey. Subs: K Kilmurray for Whelan inj (34), C Lynam for Reilly (41), G Hickey for Windsor (48), C Reilly for Dempsey (48).
Mullinalaghta - P Rogers; S Cadam, D McElligott, P Fox; F Mulligan, S Mulligan, C Brady; A McElligott, J Keegan; G Rogers, J McGivney, C McElligott; J Matthews, D McGivney, R Brady. Subs: R McElligott for C McElligott (47), J Mooney for Brady (54).
Ref - C Reilly (Meath)