Kerry will rue the fact that, again, they could not see out the 70 minutes and change in this competition. The result sees Westmeath top the group on six points and a win against either Antrim at home on June 2 or Carlow away the following week will ensure they contest the final. Kerry, on the other hand, must beat Meath on June 2 and hope other results go their way to stay interested.
Westmeath manager Michael Ryan said: “If you were a neutral on the terrace you would wonder for a while did anyone want to win the game because both teams were missing chances. But while we were lucky in the end to win, it’s a case of ‘give me a lucky general any day of the week’.
“When the game was there to be won in injury time, we kicked on and scored three points which is good. Our defence was good all the day long but up front we would not be happy with the way we played. It certainly wasn’t pretty.”
Kerry boss Fintan O’Connor was crestfallen as the defeat makes a final appearance a long shot at best.
He said: “It came down to the last 15 minutes and who could execute it the better.
“It was difficult under pressure. It was frenzied stuff with two teams going at it, as it was a must win for us in particular. We were in the game right to the end but did not finish it out like we did against Carlow so we are very disappointed.”
Kerry were 0-3 to 0-1 in front by the 14th minute, thanks to superb points by Daithí Griffin, Barry O’Mahony, and Shane Conway but then Westmeath, in the impressive Niall O’Brien, struck 1-1 in a two-minute spell to lead 1-2 to 0-3.
Points from Podge Boyle, Barry O’Mahony, and Shane Nolan levelled the contest again but O’Brien and substitute Joey Boyle ensured Westmeath had their noses in front at half time, 1-7 to 0-8.
Westmeath took over on the resumption but could not make it count on the scoreboard as Kerry added two points to level by the 44th minute.
The hosts surged two clear thanks to inspirational scores from Daithí Griffin and Jack Goulding and it looked ominous for the visitors.
Westmeath appeared to realise the depth of the hole they were in as Niall Mitchell found sub Darragh Clinton and he blasted the ball to the Kerry net for Westmeath’s first score of the second half in the 54th minute.
The final 15 minutes saw fortunes sway one way and the other before Jordan Conway gave Kerry a one-point lead on the 69th minute, but just like the game away to Carlow, Kerry could not hang on. Aonghus Clarke levelled in the 70th minute as Bryan Murphy picked up a second yellow. Allan Devine pointed the resultant free and when the Kerry goalkeeper miscued his puck-out straight to Devine, he fired over the insurance point.
A Devine (0-7, 6 frees), N O’Brien (1-2), D Clinton (1-0), J Boyle, C Boyle, A Clarke (0-1 each)
D Griffin (0-3), P Boyle and S Conway (0-3 each, 2 frees), B O’Mahony (0-2), J O’Connor, S Nolan, J Goulding and J Conway (0-1 each)
M Stackpoole; S Weir, J Buckley, B Murphy; B Barrett, D Collins, J O’Connor; S Nolan, B O’Leary, D Griffin, M Boyle, B O’Mahony, J Goulding, P Boyle, S Conway
J Conway for S Nolan (49), D O’Carroll for J Goulding (69).
P Carroll; S Power, T Doyle, G Greville; L Varley, P Greville, D McNicholas; E Price, C Boyle; C Doyle, R Greville, A Clarke; N O’Brien, N Mitchell, A Devine
J Boyle for C Boyle (21), D Clinton for R Greville (50), J Gilligan for E Price (58).
C McAllister (Cork)