Mikey Boyle’s 13th minute goal helped Kerry to a 1-8 to 0-7 interval lead but thereafter Westmeath took charge with Cormac Boyle, Eoin Price and Niall O’Brien landing the scores to maintain their perfect record in the qualifiers.
Westmeath boss Michael Ryan was unimpressed by their first half showing but thrilled with the turnaround: “I felt our first touch left us down and I felt our shot selection was poor, as you won’t win games hitting the ball towards the corner flag. We talked about it at half-time and felt that if we tidied a few things, were braver, and also work harder we would have a great chance.
“We needed to take our chances from outfield when they arose and our two midfielders scored 0-5 which was the winning margin at the end.”
The game turned in the third quarter when Westmeath hit 1-4 against their shell-shocked hosts. Derek McNicholas got Westmeath’s goal in the 45th minute to give his side a 1-11 to 1-9 lead and points from him, O’Brien and Aonghus Clark saw Westmeath race five clear and Kerry could never crack their opponent’s defensive structure.
Kerry boss Ciaran Carey reasoned: “We were probably playing against ten defenders at that stage and we lost our shape against so many bodies. That was always going to happen against a system like theirs.”
Kerry suffered a major blow when star attacker Mikey Boyle was red-carded by referee John Keenan in the closing moments. Carey didn’t hide his displeasure at the call: “It was obvious that the referee was out of his depth. Some of the decisions that went against us were unbelievable. If Mikey Boyle was to get the line surely the fellow who clattered John Egan should have got the line, because Egan had gone inside his marker and it was a straight strike.”
Kerry will now be without Boyle for their make-or-break clash with Offaly in their final round-robin tie.
D McNicholas (1-3); N O’Brien (0-5, 4 frees), C Boyle (0-3), E Price (0-2), A Clarke, A Devine, R Greville, L Varley and B Murtagh (0-1 each).
S Nolan 0-4 (4f), M Boyle (1-1), J Goulding (0-2), P Lucid (0-2, 2 frees) B O’Leary (0-2) J Egan and B Barrett (0-1 each).
A McCabe; B Murphy, P Kelly, K Carmody; J Diggins , D Dineen, T Murnane; J Griffin, D Collins ; B O’Leary , M O’Leary, S Nolan; J Goulding , M Boyle, J Egan.
P Lucid for S Nolan (h/t), J Conway for M O’Leary (45), T Casey for J Griffin (56), J Buckley for D Collins (64); B Barrett for J Goulding (60), J Buckley for D Collins (64).
P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, G Greville, A Clarke; C Boyle, E Price; A Devine, D McNicholas, R Greville; L Varley, D Egerton, N O’Brien.
N Mitchell for T Gallagher (25), B Murtagh for D Egerton (58), W Casserly for Alan Devine (67), D Clinton for E Price (70), A McGrath for D McNicholas (72), C Shaw for S Power (75).
John Keenan (Wicklow)