Westmeath 0-14 Antrim 0-12
Westmeath set up a Leinster SHC quarter-final clash with Galway when their 14 men completed a remarkable comeback to stun Antrim at Pearse Park this afternoon.
They had defender Conor Jordan sent off after half an hour, and were soon six points behind, but somehow they turned the game around with an inspired second-half performance to deny the Ulster men.
Corner forward Niall O’Brien did most of the damage up front with a superb eight points tally as the Lake county pulled off an unlikely victory.
Antrim performed with style and polish in the opening stages, with centre back Neil McManus powering over a free from 70 metres, before Liam Watson angled over a couple of neat scores to make it 0-3 to 0-0 after 10 minutes.
Brendan Murtagh won the free that Niall O’Brien converted for Westmeath’s opening score in the 17th minute, but McManus soon restored the Saffrons’ three points cushion with a monster free.
McNaughton added further to Antrim’s mounting tally with two carbon-copy points from wide on the left as the northern challenge soared.
Westmeath suffered what appeared to be a serious setback in the 30th minute when Jordan picked up a second yellow card.
But they immediately showed signs of defiance, and Paul Greville’s tigerish defending set up a point for O’Brien.
However, at the break it was the Ulster men who led by 0-8 to 0-3, and appeared to be bang on course for victory.
The home side, with the wind in their backs, started the second half brightly, with O’Brien and Boyle hitting the target, and when Aonghus Clarke swept over a stylish point, followed by O’Brien’s fifth, the deficit was down to two.
Antrim were ruffled as their hosts piled forward, with Alan McGrath at the centre of their telling surges from deep, but points from McManus and Barney McAuley kept their noses in front.
O’Brien powered over a free from 70 metres to narrow the gap to a single point midway through the second half, and it was Murtagh who brought the sides level.
Antrim went back in front through substitute Conor McCann, but only briefly, as the home side, with Price and Paul Fennell performing heroics, shut up shop at the back.
The Leinster men shot the final three points of the game, going in front for the first time through O’Brien, and sealing with the win with Murtagh’s late strike.
Westmeath: N O’Brien 0-8 (6f), B Murtagh (1f), F Boyle 0-2 each, A Clarke, J Shaw 0-1 each.
Antrim: L Watson 0-4, S McNaughton (1f), N McManus (2f) 0-3 each, B McAuley, C McCann 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: S McGovern, C Jordan, A Price, P Fennell, P Dowdall, A McGrath, P Greville, A Clarke, J Clarke, B Murtagh, F Boyle, R Greville, N O’Brien, J Shaw, E Price.
Subs: D Fennell for Boyle (62), P Gilsenan for R Greville (72)
ANTRIM: DD Quinn, J Kerr, C Carson, A Graffin, M Gettens, N McManus, N McAuley, B McAuley, P Shiels, M Herron, B McFall, E McCloskey, D Hamill, L Watson, S McNaughton.
Subs: K Stewart for Hamill (46), PJ O’Connell for Herron (56), C McCann for McFall (61), S McCrory for Kerr (67)
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).