Westmeath 2-16 Kerry 1-18
Westmeath won the Christy Ring Cup in dramatic fashion at Croke Park today, where a stoppage-time point from substitute Andrew Dermody saw them edge out Kerry by a single point.
The Midlanders displayed courage to come from behind in the dying moments and hit two pressure scores to clinch the title.
Kerry had led the way for much of the first half, and held a two points advantage at the interval.
But they had to claw their way back after conceding two goals to Dan Carthy and Paul Greville, with sub Shane Brick hitting the net late on for the Kingdom.
They got their noses back in front briefly, but it was a plucky Westmeath side that packed a powerful finish to deny the Kingdom.
With Darragh O’Connell striking accurately from frees, Kerry moved ahead in the opening stages, going ahead by 0-4 to 0-1.
Westmeath responded with points from Joe Clarke Blaine Leharte and Stephen Bardon, but the Munster men stayed ahead with scores from John Griffin and Michael Boyle.
Kerry led by 0-8 to 0-5 after O’Connell had raced through for a point from play, and the same player made it 0-11 to 0-6 on the half-hour with another sublime effort.
Westmeath centre forward Brendan Murtagh was twice denied by the Kerry defence when going for goal, while Leharte had an effort kept out by goalkeeper Bernard Rochford.
But they did find the net in the 32nd minute when Shane Dan Carthy blasted home to narrow the gap to two points.
They trailed by 0-12 to 1-7 at the break, but went level five minutes into the second half when Paul Greville hit their second goal.
O’Connell continued to strike accurately from frees, but a couple of sweetly struck Murtagh points kept the sides deadlocked through the third quarter.
Westmeath went ahead for the first time since the sixth minute when Stephen Bardon guided over a point from wide on the right.
The Kerry defence was living nervously and at times dangerously, and somehow managed to escape when in quick succession, Leo Smyth and Carthy saw efforts come back off the crossbar.
But the Midlanders were growing in confidence, epitomised by Carthy’s splendid point to send them three clear with 15 minutes to play.
Joe Carthy added a point to pile the pressure on the Munster men, but they responded magnificently, for substitute Shane Brick to fire in a goal, after his driven 20-metre free had been parried by goalkeeper Pat Burke.
Michael Boyle levelled, and Mike Conway hit the lead point for the Kingdom with two minutes to play.
Westmeath, however, had more to offer, and after Murtagh had given them parity again, Dermody took centre stage with that late winner.
Kerry: B Rochford, C Harris, T Murnane, J Fitzgerald, J Godley, L Boyle, A Healy, M Conway (0-1), J Griffin (0-2), J Egan (0-3), M Boyle (0-2), D O’Connell (0-8, 6f), J Flaherty (0-1), G O’Brien, S Nolan (0-1).
Subs: S Brick (1-0) for Flaherty (47), C Harty for Nolan (59)
Westmeath: P Burke, A Price, J Shaw, E Price, R Whelan, A Mitchell, D McCormack, J Clarke (0-2), L Smyth, S Bardon (0-3), B Murtagh (0-4, 1f), E Loughlin (0-1), P Greville (1-2), B Leharte (0-1), D Carthy (1-2).
Subs: P Dowdall for Leharte (34), C Jordan for McCormack (h-t), A Dowdall for Loughlin (52), A Dermody (0-1) for Bardon (65).
Referee: T Carroll (Offaly).