CHRISTY RING CUP (Quarter-final): Westmeath 2-21 Down 1-18, Wicklow 3-13 Meath 1-18
Westmeath are through to play Kildare in the last four of the Christy Ring Cup after they saw off the stern challenge of Down at Páirc Tailteann in Navan this afternoon.
Played in exceptional weather, the Leinster men-managed by two-time All Ireland medal winner Kevin Martin scored a goal in each half and while they were never led by their Northern opponents, they were made to work extremely hard.
Having been beaten twice in the League by Kildare earlier on in the season, Manager Martin believes his charges “owe them one” when they play in two weeks.
“Our forwards just clicked in the second half today,” admitted Martin afterwards. “We showed a very good work rate all round and in the second-half we stepped up to it because I thought we looked a bit lethargic in the first half.
“We’re delighted,” he continued. “We’re waiting all year to open up like this and hopefully we’re coming at the right time.”
Westmeath led by four at the break, 1-11 to 0-10 points after midfielder Dan Carty goaled after 25 minutes. Points from Brendan Murtagh, Paul Greville and Stephen Barrett helped open up a commanding lead but Down, through their scorer in chief Paul Braniff rallied to trim the margin by the break.
Braniff continued to look dangerous up front for Down but after Carty bagged his second major midway through the second period, there was never any doubt about the outcome, despite a late charge from Down.
Man-of-the-match Carty accounted for 2-4 of his sides tally and Martin is full of confidence heading into the crucial stage of the season.
“Yeah listen we’ve every chance, it’s up to them now if they really want it, it’d be great for Westmeath to get up competing for the Liam McCarthy again.”
In the other quarter-final clash, Wicklow left it late before securing the win after a remarkable game of hurling in Newbridge today.
An injury-time goal by Jonathan O’Neill sealed victory for the Garden county and they will play Kerry in two weeks for a place in the final.
Mick O’Hagan’s men got the best possible start when they sped into a 2-3 to 0-3 points lead after only 13 minutes. The goals coming from the stick of corner-forward Enan Glynn, brother to 2009 All-Star footballer Leighton.
Meath gradually worked their way back into it and were rewarded for their persistence on 24 minutes when Noel Kirby-their two goal hero from last week, added another to his collection to reduce the deficit to just a point.
The talismanic Nicky Horan levelled the game a minute later and they then went in front with a series of points, 2-4 to 1-9. Wicklow tied the match through two Andy O’Brien efforts and a thrilling second period lay in store.
Meath’s fortunes began to turn when Peter Durnon was shown a straight red card for a wild pull and Wicklow surged ahead through Jonathan O’Neill and the veteran Don Highland, who scored five points in a row.
Meath’s first score of the half came through Stephen Clynch in the 52nd minute and three long range points brought them right them back into it.
The sides were level again on 67 minutes, 2-13 to 1-16 but Meath went ahead again through Horan and Kevin Fagan before O’Neill shattered their dreams with a goal two minutes into injury time.