Kerry manager O'Connor calls for support as troops deliver Lake victory
Kerry 1-21 Westmeath 2-16
Delighted Kerry manager Fintan O'Connor admitted that his charges "probably had a chip on their shoulder after losing twice to Westmeath in the league" when he reflected on a surprise win against the Lake County in Saturday's keenly contested clash in Mullingar.
A great display by Shane Conway was the deciding factor, the Lixnaw man hitting 13 points, including the brace of last-gasp scores which earned the visitors a precious victory.
The first-half was a tense affair with, as expected, the respective centre half-forwards, Conway and Killian Doyle, doing the bulk of the scoring.
Five unanswered points for the Kingdom - including three from Conway - put them 0-7 to 0-5 ahead by the 23rd minute of a niggly contest. The sides were locked at 0-8 apiece at the interval.
Westmeath got off to a dream start in the second-half with half-time sub Allan Devine finding the net from close range after just 30 seconds.
However, Kerry continued to plug away and they were three points to the good (0-17 to 1-11) with 61 minutes gone. A minute later, a goal by Doyle levelled the scoring, but Kerry responded instantly when Colum Harty found the net.
Kerry's Tomás O'Connor was dismissed on a second yellow card with six minutes of normal time left. Four minutes of added-time were signalled and the sides were level with two of these remaining.
Appropriately, Conway pounced for the winning scores - a free and a great point from play.
O'Connor was pleased that Kerry are now back in contention with two home games remaining.
"The lads probably knew that we weren't 100pc prepared for the Antrim game. That's the reality of it. Very few came up to see us today. Hopefully, people will come out in Tralee and support the lads against Laois," he concluded.
His opposite number, Joe Quaid, who suffered his first defeat as Westmeath manager in this game, was magnanimous in defeat.
"Kerry were hungrier than us," he said. "It'll be a test of our character to see how we react to this."
Scorers - Kerry: S Conway 0-13 (7f, 2 '65s), C Harty 1-1, J Conway 0-3, P Boyle, P Kelly, M O'Leary, J O'Connor 0-1 each. Westmeath: K Doyle 1-11 (8f), A Devine 1-0, D Clinton 0-2, E Price, S Clavin, R Greville 0-1 each.
Kerry: JB O'Halloran; J O'Connor, B Murphy, S Weir; E Murphy, P Kelly, D Collins; D Goggin, T O'Connor; M O'Leary, S Conway, J Goulding; P Boyle, M Boyle, C Harty. Subs: J Conway for Kelly (40), M Slattery for Goggin (61).
Westmeath - C Lynch; D Egerton, T Doyle, G Greville; C Shaw, A Clarke, P Greville; C Boyle, S Clavin; R Greville, K Doyle, J Boyle; N Mitchell, D McNicholas, C Doyle. Subs: D Clinton for Mitchell (inj., 23), A Devine for C Doyle (h-t), E Price for McNicholas (h-t), S Power for Shaw (58), J Gilligan for J Boyle (70 + 4).
Ref - P Murphy (Carlow).