Westmeath have caused a sensation in the Leinster hurling championship as this draw with Wexford looks like it will cost the Slaneysiders a place in the All-Ireland series.
here was a highly dramatic finish to a game that looked like it was going to peter out into an unconvincing win for Wexford.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, veteran Westmeath substitute Derek McNicholas got the vital touch after Wexford netminder Mark Fanning was unable to deal with a delivery into the goalmouth from another sub, Kevin Regan.
It was the second soft goal Wexford conceded in the game and combined with their wasteful shooting, it leaves their championship hopes hanging by a thread.
Wexford registered 14 wides in the second half and a total of 21 as a combination of poor finishing and questionable shot selection came back to haunt them.
With Wexford having already lost to Dublin and drawn with Galway, they really needed to win this game.
From Westmeath’s point of view, this famous result is a major shot in the arm ahead of their upcoming clash with Laois which will decide who holds on to Liam MacCarthy Cup status.
On a glorious sunny evening in Mullingar, Westmeath caused Wexford plenty of problems in the first half, with the visitors leading by the bare minimum at half-time (0-12 to 1-8).
Westmeath generally opted to go short with their puck-outs in the first half, often looking for the returning Aonghus Clarke to set up attacks by spraying diagonal passes forward.
Wexford were more effective at curbing this tactic in the second half, but Darragh Egan’s charges were still unable to see the game out in the pressure cooker closing stages.
Westmeath’s first-half goal was highly fortuitous as Niall Mitchell’s speculative long-range point attempt was spilled by Wexford goalie Mark Fanning and the ball dropped into the net. That 24th-minute score lifted the Westmeath players and fans alike and a number of mini-battles started to go their way.
Lee Chin was showing the way from general play for a rattled Wexford side in the opening half, scoring five points (four frees). However, Chin had a number of uncharacteristic misses from placed balls. Rory O’Connor also looked dangerous but the supply of ball to the St Martin’s attacker was patchy to say the least.
Westmeath were reduced to 14 men with four minutes of normal time remaining, after Davy Glennon was shown a second yellow card.
Yet, the visitors were unable to close out the game and WEestmeath struck late for a dramatic draw.
Scorers – Westmeath: K Doyle 0-11 (9 frees, 1 65); N Mitchell and D McNicholas 1-0 each; A Craig, N O’Brien, D Glennon and K Regan 0-1 each. Wexford: L Chin 0-9 (7 frees); R O’Connor, C McDonald, O Foley, L Óg McGovern and S Donohoe 0-2 each; P Morris and C Hearne 0-1 each.
Wexford: M Fanning; S Donohoe, L Ryan, C Devitt; M O’Hanlon, D Reck, P Foley; D O’Keeffe, L Óg McGovern; J O’Connor, Oisín Foley, Lee Chin; Paul Morris, Conor McDonald, R O’Connor. Subs: K Foley for O’Keeffe (29 mins); C McGuckian for Morris (50); C Flood for J O’Connor (54); M Dwyer for O Foley (62); C Hearne for Ryan (inj., 67).
Westmeath: N Conaty; J Bermingham, T Doyle, D Egerton; R Greville, A Clarke, A Craig; C Boyle, S McGovern; D Glennon, J Boyle, N O’Brien; N Mitchell, E Keyes, K Doyle. Subs: K Regan for C Boyle (49 mins); O McCabe for Keyes (50); D McNicholas for J Boyle (67); D Clinton for O’Brien (70); J Gillen for Mitchell (73).
Referee: S Hynes (Galway).