Westmeath manager and Kildare native, Tom Cribbin, wasn’t even aware of the historical significance of his side’s three-point victory until veteran goalkeeper Gary Connaughton told him.
“Gary came to me after and he said he’d never ever, in all his career, beaten Kildare in a league match. Jesus, I couldn’t believe that,” said Cribbin.
“It’s no wonder they battled so hard,” Cribbin added, delighted with his men after an impressive display.
Leading by 0-8 to 0-5 at half-time after a dominant first-half display, the visitors closed out the game in style with three late points to keep the home side at bay. Midfielder John Heslin finished with six points from frees while Connaughton, who is also a selector, produced a string of fine saves.
Westmeath had reeled off four successive points in the opening quarter to take an early foothold. Kildare’s shooting troubled them throughout. They scored just twice in the opening 25 minutes and missed the target 14 times in the second half.
After a nervous third quarter, Westmeath regained their composure in the closing stages. Denis Glennon kicked three invaluable points from play while the impressive Lorcan Smyth sealed victory with his second point in the 68th minute.
After three defeats and three away fixtures to come, Kildare manager Jason Ryan now faces an uphill task as his team battle to avoid relegation.
“Yeah the pressure is on. It doesn’t get any easier,” said Ryan, whose side began the season with high hopes of promotion.
“I’d say that in Kildare, every game has an element of pressure. It doesn’t matter whether it is the first game in January or the middle of the championship,” said Ryan. “It’s (relegation) something that is there but we can’t control, the only thing we can control is our performance the next day and how we play. And that’s what we’ll be focusing on rather than things that are out of our hands.”
Cribbin takes his rejuvenated side to Navan on Saturday for a derby clash with Meath.
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin 0-6f; D Glennon 0-3; L Smyth 0-2; K Martin, P Sherry, G Egan, S Dempsey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: E O’Flaherty 0-5 (0-3f); F Conway, P O’Neill, P Cribbin, D Mulhall (f), F Dowling, P Fogarty, D Flynn 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: G Connaughton; M McCallon, K Maguire, K Daly; J Gonoud, K Martin, P Holloway; J Heslin, P Sharry; C McCormack, G Egan, R Connellan; L Smyth, D Daly, D Glennon. Subs: D Lynch for Holloway, 51; S Dempsey for McCormack, 52; D McCormack for Connellan, 60; J Egan for D Daly, 70.
KILDARE: M Donnellan; M O’Grady, C Fitzpatrick, O Lyons; K Cribbin, F Conway, E Doyle; H Lynch, P O’Neill; P Cribbin, E Callaghan, E O’Flaherty; D Mulhall, F Dowling, T O’Connor. Subs: P Fogarty for Mulhall (46); A Smith for O’Connor (61); G White for Lynch (61); E Bolton for Doyle, (64); D Flynn for O’Neill (70).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).