Cooney and Whittaker pounce to secure wonderful Westmeath win
Eirgrid Leinster U20 Football Championship Round 1
By Damien Maher
Westmeath shocked last year’s Leinster champions and All-Ireland finalists Kildare, in the Leinster Under 20 Football Championship at Hawkfield on Tuesday evening - the Lake County winning by six points after a terrific performance.
On a miserably wet evening, Kildare led by 0-4 to nil after 20 minutes and at that stage, it was looking pretty bleak for Damien Gavin’s Westmeath side, who had shown flashes of potential in their Philly McGuinness Cup campaign.
Tubberclair’s Matthew Whittaker - who was outstanding on the night with 1-3 in total - got the visitors off the mark with their first point and at half-time, Westmeath trailed by just two points, 0-5 to 0-3. The visitors had to battle in the face of serious adversity as both midfielders were back-carded: Dylan Muratgh was sin-binned after nine minutes and then Ben Killian was dismissed with 17 minutes played, leaving Westmeath with 13 men for a brief period.
A rejuvenated Westmeath side showed renewed vigour after the break. The first significant breakthrough came 12 minutes into the second half when Brían Cooney fisted home Westmeath’s opening goal to put them ahead (after Senan Baker’s free dropped in the danger area). That was a catalyst and Westmeath seemed to find renewed belief, showing grit and determination when required to keep their noses in front.
Kildare closed to within two points after 55 minutes to set up a tense finish before a Whittaker goal in the 60th minute sealed victory for an impressive Westmeath side.
The Lake County will have home advantage when they take on Wexford in round two on Tuesday, April 4.
SCORERS - Westmeath: M Whittaker 1-3, B Cooney 1-1, S Baker 0-3 (3f), T Kelleher, S Hanley, S Corcoran 0-1 each. Kildare: S Farrell 0-5 (5f), A Fanning 0-2 (1m), C Bolton, R Sinkey, K Cummins 0-1 (f).
WESTMEATH - Mickey Lynam; Liam Daly, Sam Smith, Daragh Lowry; Daniel Scahill, Tom Kelleher, Jack Geoghegan; Dylan Murtagh, Ben Killian; Podge Quinn, Danny McCartan, Matthew Whittaker; Brían Cooney, Senan Baker, Shane Hanley. Subs used: Shane Corcoran for Quinn (52), Peter Pierson for Hanley (60), Tadhg Baker for Whittaker (60+2).
KILDARE - Cormac Barker; Harry O'Neill, Ryan Burke, Jack McKevitt; James Harris, James McGrath, Fionn Ó Giolláin; Luke Killian, Sean Hanafin; Callum Bolton, Colm Dalton, Shane Farrell; Kevin Cummins, Niall Dolan, Adam Fanning. Subs used: Ryan Sinkey for Hanafin (38), Oisín O'Sullivan for Dolan (43), Tomas von Engelbrechten for Ó Giolláin (51), Eoin Cully for Cummins (56), Daire Guerin for Killian (60+2).
REF - Andrew Smith ( Meath).