History in the making

5 talking points from Westmeath’s incredible victory over Meath

The Lake County will face Dublin in the Leinster final on 12 July.

1. Meath’s meltdown

Meath were ten points clear in the first half and nine ahead after the break but still managed to lose to Westmeath for the first time in senior championship history.

Graham Reilly’s black card was a turning point as the St Colmcille’s man had kicked four points in the first half.

Meath also lost Donncha Tobin to a black card and the red mist descended on goalkeeper Paddy O’Rourke in stoppage time.

O’Rourke was making his way out with the ball when he careered recklessly into Westmeath’s two-goal hero Kieran Martin.

The Skryne man was sent off and will be suspended as Meath look to regroup through the qualifiers.

Patrick OÕRourke colides with Kieran Martin late in the game resulting in a red card Paddy O'Rourke was sent off following this collision with Kieran Martin. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

2. Yes, that was Westmeath’s first ever championship win against Meath.

Westmeath went desperately close to beating Meath in 2003 when Dessie Dolan kicked that late free wide and the Royals escaped with a draw.

That old feeling of opportunity knocking surfaced again yesterday with the game in the melting pot in the closing minutes but this time Westmeath closed it out.

As they came roaring back into contention down the home straight, a palpable sense of anticipation hung in the air at Croke Park.

Point by point, the Lake County chipped away at Meath’s lead and Kieran Martin fisted the leveller.

It was Martin who put them in front with a carbon-copy effort before John Heslin’s goal put the icing on a sweet-tasting cake.

In the final 20 minutes plus stoppage time, Westmeath outscored Meath by 2-8 to 0-1.

John Heslin scores a late goal despite Conor McGill and goalkeeper Patrick OÕRourke John Heslin finds the back of the Meath net in stoppage time. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

3. John Heslin’s performance.

In a word, sublime. Even when Westmeath were under the cosh in the first half, Heslin kept chipping away up front.

The St Loman’s man is a superb talent and on one of the most famous days in Westmeath’s history, his personal haul of 1-9 will live long in the memory.

Heslin banged home the insurance goal in stoppage time, a cool low finish with his left foot as Paddy O’Rourke advanced.

While Heslin was good, Kieran Martin was sensational for Westmeath.

Named at centre back but named in a far more advanced role, Martin scored the first half goal that kept Westmeath in the hunt.

His second goal dragged Tom Cribbin’s men back into contention and it was Martin who scored the equalising point before adding the lead score.

John Heslin celebrates after the game A jubilant John Heslin at full-time. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

4. Can Westmeath mount a serious challenge in the Leinster final against Dublin?

Unlikely. This may well have been Westmeath’s Leinster final and boss Cribbin now has a difficult task on his hands as he attempts to get his players back down to earth for 12 July.

Meath were simply rampant in the first half and when they got on a roll, they made Westmeath look rather ordinary.

That has to be a concern for Westmeath as Dublin are an infinitely better side.

Westmeath need to put the shutters down early on and hope that they’re in contention heading into the second half.

It’s their first Leinster final appearance since that one and only senior provincial victory in 2004 but the odds are firmly stacked against a repeat performance.

Still, they will go into the Dublin game full of confidence following this magnificent semi-final win.

Tom Cribbin at the end of the game Tom Cribbin salutes Westmeath supporters after today's win. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

5. Where do Meath go from here?

Hard to know. They’ll discover their qualifier opponents in the morning but it’s unlikely that Meath will fancy the qualifier route much after this devastating loss.

Meath are in bowl 2, along with Derry, Tipperary and Galway.

They’ll now face one of the teams in bowl 1 – Armagh, Wexford, Louth or Tyrone.

Whoever Meath get on 11 July will provide stiff opposition. A day later, Meath’s players will sit down to watch the Leinster final, knowing that they could and should have been involved in a fourth successive decider.

It’s a massive ask for boss Mick O’Dowd to rouse his players after they lost their heads and were scorched down the home straight today.

Mick O'Dowd Meath boss Mick O'Dowd pictured before throw-in. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

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