Westmeath record famous Championship win over Meath
WESTMEATH 3-19 MEATH 2-18
Westmeath fashioned one of the most remarkable comebacks ever witnessed at Croke Park when they came from nine points down to defeat Meath for the first time ever in championship football.
The victory secured Westmeath a place in the Leinster final for the first time since 2004. Regardless of what happens in the provincial decider Westmeath fans will never forget what happened in the final twenty minutes.
Westmeath had spent nine fruitless decades trying to beat Meath in championship football. At the 23rd attempt they have finally reached the Promised Land.
But what made the break so memorable was the manner in which it was achieved. This was an astonishing comebacks by any standards.
Spearheaded by the brilliant John Heslin - who scored a match-winning tally of 1-9 - and an equally remarkable 2-3 contribution from play by the team's designated centre back Kieran Martin, nobody could dispute the merit of Westmeath's breakthrough win.
Meath's afternoon of woe was completed when goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke was showed a straight red card just before the finish.
Earlier, the Royals had lost both Graham Reilly and Donncha Tobin to black cards.
Still Meath looked set to continue their dominance over Westmeath for long periods. They completely controlled the opening quarter and were not flattered by their 0-8 to 0-1 lead. They squandered two goal chances and kicked eight first-half wides which ultimately came back to haunt them.
Martin handed Westmeath a lifeline with a goal ten minutes before the break but when Meath rookie Brian McMahon hit two goals in the space of ninety seconds when his marker Killian Daly was clearly carrying a knock it looked to have handed the initiative back to Meath who were ten points up at one stage in the half.
They led 2-12 to 1-7 at the break and although Westmeath began the second half in positive fashion Meath were still looking comfortable leading 2-17 to 1-11 after 51 minutes.
But Kieran Martin's second goal turned the game on its head and Meath only scored one more point whereas Westmeath hit 2-8.
A fisted point from Martin now operating at full forward levelled the game in the 66th minute before another fisted score gave them the lead for the first time in the final minute.
Meath had one last chance to salvage the game but Brian McMahon went for a goal and his effort was smothered. Westmeath broke upfield and appropriately it was the brilliant John Heslin who scored a wonder goal to claim a momentous victory for Westmeath.
The provincial championship is dead; long live the provincial championships!
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).
Referee: C Lane (Cork)