All-Ireland SFC: Tyrone and Westmeath divide the spoils
All-Ireland SFC Group Two
Tyrone 0-18 Westmeath 0-18
By Gerry Buckley at Kingspan Breffni
Tyrone's quest to regain All-Ireland honours is still intact after surviving a very stern test from Westmeath in a very entertaining game played in very pleasant conditions in Kingspan Breffni Park, the midlanders almost snatching a dramatic winning point from a free with time almost up, which would have eliminated the 2021 champions.
Westmeath, who more than justified their inclusion in the Sam Maguire Cup over the course of their three round robin games, almost got off to a sensational start, overlapping centre half back Ronan Wallace spurning a glorious goal chance after 30 seconds when he was bottled up close to goal.
The hard-working Sam McCartan put the underdogs ahead in the second minute and it needed Darragh Canavan’s third point – his first from play – to nudge the 2021 All-Ireland champions ahead for the first time in the 12th minute, shortly after a lengthy run goalward by John Heslin had come to nothing. A brace of Heslin frees put Dessie Dolan’s troops ahead again with 21 minutes played.
Westmeath led by 0-5 to 0-4 when Conn Kilpatrick was denied what looked a certain goal by a great save from Jason Daly in the 28th minute. Pádraig Hampsey also scuffed a great goal opportunity on the half-hour mark. Fine free-taking by Luke Loughlin had Westmeath on level terms (0-06 apiece) heading towards the end of normal time.
A Peter Harte free nudged the Red Hand County ahead, but points in injury-time from Loughlin (a difficult free) and McCartan (the last kick of the half) had the Lake County in front by 0-08 to 0-07 at the interval.
Ruairí Canavan equalised 90 seconds after the resumption of play. Westmeath failed to capitalise on two half-chances of goals and this proved costly as Darragh Canavan continued his fine form at the other end, both from frees and open play, and he opened the first two-point lead of the contest (0-13 to 0-11) in the 48th minute.
This lead was extended to four (0-15 to 0-11) courtesy of points from Conn Kilpatrick and sub Kieran McGeary with 56 minutes on the clock, and it looked like Tyrone would go on to win with a bit to spare.
However, Westmeath continued to plug away manfully, with Loughlin and Ronan O’Toole always threatening in attack. Impressive full back and captain Kevin Maguire appeared fortunate not to be black-carded for a foul on Kilpatrick – he received a yellow – and with subs Senan Baker and Kieran Martin both kicking fine points, Westmeath were still well in contention when trailing by two points (0-18 to 0-16) at the end of normal time.
A Heslin free and a fine score from Ray Connellan levelled the contest with the four minutes of added-time almost up. Heslin’s last-gasp free from a very acute angle shaved the post on the wrong side, much to the relief of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan.
Scorers for Tyrone: D Canavan 0-10 (6fs), R Canavan 0-3 (1f), P Harte (f), B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick, J Oguz, K McGeary 0-1 each.
Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (7fs), L Loughlin 0-4 (2fs), S McCartan 0-2, R Connellan, R O'Toole, S Baker, K Martin 0-1 each.
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; C Quinn, M O’Neill, P Harte; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; C Meyler, J Oguz, R Canavan; A Clarke, M Donnelly, D Canavan.
Subs: K McGeary for Oguz (42), F Burns for McNamee (52), N Devlin for Donnelly (64), N Kelly for Clarke (66), S O’Donnell for Harte (70).
Westmeath: J Daly; J Smith, K Maguire, J Dolan; S McCartan, R Wallace, C Dillon; J Lynam, R Connellan; A McCormack, R O'Toole, D Lynch; L Loughlin, J Heslin, L Dolan.
Subs: S Smith for L Dolan (43), S Baker for Dillon (46), J Gonoud for J Smith (56), K Martin for Maguire (66).
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).