Westmeath fight back from 10 points down to stun Meath

By Paul Keane

Westmeath 3-19 Meath 2-18

Kieran Martin made a little piece of Championship history with a remarkable 2-3 haul at Croke Park to secure Westmeath the unlikeliest of Leinster football final places.

In the process, the Lake County also ended their unbeaten Championship run against neighbours Meath though few can truly say they saw it coming.

The Lake County, relegated in the Allianz League, looked down and out at one stage in the first-half when they trailed by 10 and they were nine down with 20 minutes to go.

But with Martin and John Heslin shooting 3-12 between them overall they would recover to finally get one over Meath and qualify for the July 12 provincial final, their first since 2004.

Martin was the undisputed hero, moving into full-forward and having already scored two goals he drew the teams level for the first time in the 69th minute.

He didn't stop there, fisting over a point to put Westmeath ahead shortly after before an injury-time Heslin goal that put gloss on the score line.

A terrible day for Meath ended in disaster with a red card for goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke for a big hit on Martin.

Westmeath were in real difficulty early on and racked up just a single point, from Heslin, in the opening 22 minutes as Meath took a 0-8 to 0-1 lead.

Eamon Wallace was a late addition to the Meath team in place of Mickey Newman and cut Westmeath's defence apart with his speed, blasting four first-half points.

Westmeath did hint at a revival mid way through the half with a 1-2 scoring burst, the goal a fine left footed finish from Martin after a clever pop pass from Heslin. That left just three in it with 27 minutes on the clock but Brian McMahon kicked into top gear at that stage.

The corner-forward firstly capitalised on an error by Killian Daly who failed to collect a routine high ball and raced clear for Meath's first goal.

Less than 60 seconds later he accepted a lay off from Wallace on the same left wing and sprinted clear again before applying a roofed finish.

Westmeath initially had no answer to Meath's hard running and Graham Reilly sprinted clear after an interception for a fine point too.

The Royals were 2-12 to 1-7 up at half-time and clearly in their element at the spacious venue.

They retained a nine-point lead with 50 minutes on the clock but caved in after that and were left shell shocked by full-time.

Ray Connellan and Paul Sharry hit important points but it was Martin's 51st minute goal that gave Westmeath real hope.

It teed up that incredible finish and whatever happens in next month's Leinster final, Westmeath will never forget this day.

Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (1-9, five frees), K Martin (2-3), S Dempsey, J Connellan and P Sharry (two 45s) (0-2 each), R Connellan (0-1).

Scorers for Meath: B McMahon (2-2), G Reilly and E Wallace (0-4 each), S Bray (0-3), A Tormey (two frees) and M Newman (one free) (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 D Daly (29), J Gonoud for K Daly (30), D Lynch for Smyth (h/t), D Glennon for Dempsey (39), P Greville for Gilligan (59), J Egan for Corroon (65).

Meath: P O'Rourke; J McEntee, C McGill, D Tobin; B Menton, D Keogan, M Burke; H Rooney, Andrew Tormey; Graham Reilly, P Harnan, K Reilly; E Wallace, S Bray, B McMahon.

Subs: M Newman for Harnan (18-19, blood), A Flanagan for Rooney (45), D Dalton for Burke (45), Newman for G Reilly (47, black card), B Power for Tormey (60), J Wallace for Tobin (62, black card), S Tobin for K Reilly (67), D Carroll for McEntee (68-70, blood).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).

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