All-Ireland SFC: Late Armagh goal breaks Westmeath hearts
All-Ireland SFC Round Robin Group 2
Armagh 1-12 Westmeath 1-11
By Steve Malone
ARMAGH enjoyed a smash a grab victory over a gutted Westmeath team, who came close to recording a shock victory.
Dessie Dolan’s men led by a goal at the break and they were still three points in front heading into the last ten minutes.
But Conor Turbitt’s goal two minutes from time was the spark that Armagh needed and importantly put Armagh ahead. With five additional minutes there was still plenty more drama with the marvellous John Heslin levelling matters up.
However, Armagh had 10, 842 supporters cheering their every move in the Box-It Athletic Grounds and momentum was with them. Ciaran Mackin fisted over and Andrew Murnin was also on target as Armagh escaped with the narrowest of wins.
It was a crushing blow for Westmeath who were in charge for much of the game as Ronan O’Toole, Heslin, full-back Kevin Maguire and David Lynch impressed.
Armagh were kicking into a stiff breeze in the first half, which accounted somewhat for missing 1-4 in the opening quarter.
It was then that O’Toole bagged a great goal following clever approach play from Heslin and Stephen Smith. Armagh were stunned and Westmeath grew in confidence.
Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan and Rian O’Neill were on target for Armagh, while Sam McCartan, Luke Loughlin, Heslin and Ronan O’Toole helped Westmeath to a 1-07 to 0-07 lead over the Orchard at half-time.
Westmeath dictated the tempo for much of the third quarter but were shut out by Armagh’s overworked defence and when the Orchard got a sniff at the other end Andrew Murnin grabbed a massive point with 49 minutes played.
The scores came a bit more easily as the game opened up. O’Neill squeezed over a beauty but big Heslin kept steering over points to keep Westmeath ahead.
Then came the goal. O’Neill’s attempted shot dropped short but Murnin punched down for the opportunist Turbitt to drill low into the net. The Athletic Grounds was bouncing and while Westmeath threw everything they had, it was Kieran McGeeney’s men who got out of jail with a late, late win, which could be valuable to get out of Group 2.
Armagh make the trip to Healy Park in Omagh to face rivals Tyrone, who lost to Galway last week on Saturday June 3, at 7pm, while Westmeath welcome the Padraig Joyce’s Tribesmen to Mullingar, also on Saturday.
ARMAGH: Ethan Rafferty, James Morgan, Aaron McKay, Aidan Forker, Greg McCabe, Conor O’Neill, Jarly Og Burns, Ben Crealy, Ciaran Mackin (0-01), Rory Grugan (0-03. 0-2 frees), Jason Duffy, Stefan Campbell (0-02) Andrew Murnin (0-03), Rian O’Neill (0-04, 0-3 frees), Aidan Nugent.
Subs: Barry McCambridge for Morgan (22), Conor Turbitt (1-00) for Nugent (44’), Ross McQuillan for Burns (49), Shane McPartlan for Crealy (62’), Callum Cumiskey for Duffy (65),
WESTMEATH: Jason Daly, Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire, Jamie Gonoud, James Dolan, Andy McCormack, David Lynch (0-01), Sam Duncan (0-01), Ray Connellan, Sam McCartan (0-01), Ronan O’Toole (1-01), Senan Baker, Luke McLoughlin (0-02), John Heslin (0-06, 0-4 frees), Stephen Smith.
Subs: Jonathan Lynan for Baker (ht’), Ronan Wallace for J Smith (46’), Kieran Martin for S Smith (54’),
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)