Westmeath secure promotion with win over Armagh
Lake County recover from five point half-time deficit
Westmeath maintained their impressive unbeaten league run in style at icy-cold Cusack Park, Mullingar yesterday afternoon and their hard-earned one-point win over Armagh in a terrific game of football has guaranteed them Division 1 football in 2014.
Tit-for-tat scoring was the order of the day for the first quarter. Both sides had reliable free-takers from both sides of the pitch – Stefan Forker and Aaron Kernan for Armagh; John Heslin and Kieran Martin for the home team. Kernan also hit two tremendous points from open play, while Denis Glennon and Callum McCormack were on song for the Lake County.
The Orchard County men led by the bare minimum (0-6 to 0-5) after 29 minutes, but they finished the half strongly with four unanswered points from Forker and Aaron Kernan, leaving the wind-assisted visitors 0-10 to 0-5 ahead at the break.
Spurred on by a vociferous home following, Pat Flanagan’s troops played wonderful football early in the second half, equalising by the 42nd minute, courtesy of points from Martin, Glennon (two), McCormack and Ger Egan. Two Aaron Kernan frees nudged Armagh in front, but the Lake County men 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.
However, Paul Grimley’s charges continued to battle bravely against the elements and points from Aaron Kernan (a free), substitute Charlie Vernon and Stephen Harold put them a point to the good with 14 minutes left on the clock. Denis Glennon and John Heslin (a 50-metre free via the crossbar) restored Westmeath’s lead, but Stefan Forker equalised with a great point in the 61st minute.
The tension mounted and Westmeath wasted some good opportunities, before John Heslin kept his cool to slot over a free in the second minute of injury-time. Aaron Kernan missed a last-gasp free to earn his side what would probably have been a deserved draw at the end of a pulsating contest.