Westmeath 0-17 Armagh 0-16, Mullingar
Westmeath secured promotion to Division 1 for next year with a strong second-half display to beat Armagh 0-17 to 0-16 in Mullingar.
Stefan Forker was the dominant figure scoring-wise in the opening half, landing five points as the Orchard men went in at the break with a 0-10 to 0-5 lead.
Division 2 leaders Westmeath were back level by the 42nd minute. They pushed on with John Heslin landing the winning score in injury-time.
Despite the icy cold weather and a strong wind which favoured Armagh in the first period, this contest was a memorable one with Westmeath keeping up their recent trend of coming back in the second half to maintain their impressive unbeaten run.
Stefan Forker and Callum McCormack traded points in the opening five minutes, as did Tony Kernan and Denis Glennon by the tenth minute.
The tit-for-tat scoring continued with left-footed frees from Kieran Martin and Aaron Kernan, while John Heslin’s first converted free was soon cancelled out by a fabulous point from play by Aaron Kernan.
Another Forker free and a second outstanding score from play by Kernan put Paul Grimley’s men two points to the good, but a fisted effort from McCormack halved the deficit by the half-hour mark, moments after Denis Glennon’s shot for a goal went wide via the butt of the post.
Armagh finished the half strongly with four unanswered points from Forker (0-3, including two frees) and Aaron Kernan (a free) to leave the visitors 0-10 to 0-5 ahead at the break.
Spurred on by a vociferous home following in the 2,500-strong crowd, Pat Flanagan’s troops had equalised within seven minutes of the restart, with points from Martin, Denis Glennon (0-2), McCormack and Ger Egan who had a goal in mind.
Two Aaron Kernan frees nudged Armagh in front, but the Lakesiders fired over four points without reply between the 47th and 52nd minutes - two classy scores from marquee substitute Dessie Dolan, and a brace of frees from Heslin.
Armagh battled bravely against the elements and points from Aaron Kernan, substitute Charlie Vernon and a composed shot from Stephen Harold put them a point to the good with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Glennon, via the upright, and John Heslin, with a 50-metre free via the crossbar, restored Westmeath’s lead, but Forker equalised with a great point under pressure in the 61st minute.
The game was now up for grabs as the tension mounted and Westmeath wasted some good opportunities, before Heslin kept his cool to slot over a free in the second minute of injury-time.
Only two additional minutes had been signalled for, but the referee, who was somewhat inconsistent in his whistling, allowed four, and Aaron Kernan missed a last-gasp free to earn his side a share of spoils at the end of a pulsating encounter.
WESTMEATH: G Connaughton; M McCallon, K Gavin, K Maguire; M Curley, J Gaffey, J Dolan; D Duffy, J Heslin (0-5, 0-5f); K Martin (0-2, 0-1f), C McCormack (0-3), D Corroon; G Egan (0-1), C Curley, D Glennon (0-4).
Subs used: D Dolan (0-2) for C Curley (46 mins), P Sharry for Corroon (58), D Harte for M Curley (70).
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; F Moriarty, B Donaghy, D McKenna; A Kernan (0-7, 0-5f), C McKeever, K Dyas; K Toner, S Harold (0-1); B Mallon, J Hanratty, C Rafferty; T Kernan (0-1), S Forker (0-6, 0-3f), G McParland.
Subs used: M Shields for Hanratty (28 mins), C Vernon (0-1) for Mallon (51), J Donnelly for McKenna (52).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)