Eoin Keyes (Westmeath) and Paudie Foley (Wexford) in action this evening. Photo: John McCauley

McNicholas’s late goal secures sensational draw for hurlers

Leinster senior hurling championship round 4: Westmeath 2-15, Wexford 0-21

A Derek McNicholas goal deep into stoppage time secured 14-man Westmeath a sensational draw against Wexford in the Leinster SHC tonight.

In a highly dramatic clash at TEG Cusack Park, the Yellowbellies look poised for a narrow win when sub McNicholas nudged the sliothar to the net, after Wexford ‘keeper Mark Fanning failed to deal with a ball from Kevin Regan.

The result is that the Slaneysiders’ hopes of reaching the All-Ireland series is hanging by a thread, while Westmeath – managed by Wexford native Joe Fortune – left the field after conjuring one of the most sensational results in recent memory.

While Westmeath drew on a well of determination, guile and ability to ultimately hold the visitors, Wexford were in large part the authors of their own fate, registering a total of 21 wides – 14 of them in the first half.

For the Lake County, this result is a major fillip ahead of their forthcoming clash with Laois, which will decide which of the midland counties holds on to Liam MacCarthy Cup status.

Wexford led by the minimum at half-time, with Westmeath kept in touch by a fortuitous 24th minute goal from Clonkill’s Niall Mitchell. The green flag was raised after a long-range point attempt from Mitchell was spilled by Fanning and dropped into the net. From there, Westmeath started to get the rub of the green, with a number of mini-battles going their way.

Into the second half, the hosts kept on Wexford’s heels, but things looked grim after two long-range points from impressive defender Simon Donohoe gave the visitors the edge.

The vista facing Westmeath became even bleaker when Davy Glennon – who put in a tremendous shift for the Maroons – was shown a second yellow card.

However, Wexford never made their numerical advantage count in the final minutes, and the Lake County narrowed the gap to three with scores from Killian Doyle.

The Slaneysiders look to have just about clinched it when McNicholas popped up with the all-important leveller five minutes into stoppage time, sending the home support into raptures.

Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Johnny Bermingham, Aonghus Clarke, Darragh Egerton; Robbie Greville, Tommy Doyle, Aaron Craig (0-1); Cormac Boyle, Shane McGovern; Davy Glennon (0-1), Joey Boyle, Niall O’Brien (0-1); Niall Mitchell (1-0), Eoin Keyes, Killian Doyle (0-11, 9f, 1 ‘65’). Subs: Kevin Regan (0-1) for C Boyle (49); Owen McCabe for Keyes (50); Derek McNicholas (1-0) for J Boyle (67); Darragh Clinton for O’Brien (70); Jack Gillen for Mitchell (73).

Wexford: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe (0-2), Liam Ryan, Conor Devitt; Matthew O’Hanlon, Damien Reck, Paudie Foley; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Liam Óg McGovern (0-2); Jack O’Connor, Oisín Foley (0-2), Lee Chin (0-9, 7f); Paul Morris (0-1), Conor McDonald (0-2), Rory O’Connor (0-2). Subs: Kevin Foley for O’Keeffe (29); Charlie McGuckian for Morris (50); Connal Flood for J O'Connor (54); Mikie Dwyer for O Foley (62); Conor Hearne 0-1 for Ryan (inj., 67).

Ref: Shane Hynes (Galway).