Tyrone 0-18 Westmeath 0-18
By Alan Rodgers
WHAT could or perhaps should have been a more comfortable finale to the All-Ireland round-robin for Tyrone instead turned into a tension-filed wait as they came within the width of a post from existing this year’s Sam Maguire Cup race.
It was all looking fairly routine for the Red Hands as they led by 0-16 to 0-12 with ten minutes of normal time remaining. But then Westmeath came battling back, and came agonisingly close to winning before John Heslin’s free with the last kick just went wide.
The result means that Tyrone now go forward to play either Donegal, Kildare or Cork in the preliminary All-Ireland Quarter Finals. The draw for them takes place tomorrow (Monday) morning and whatever happens, Feargal Logan, Brian Dooher and the Tyrone players will be anxious to make the most of the opportunities awaiting them.
The teams were level on seven occasions during the opening period. Just as Tyrone tried to push ahead, they were inevitably pegged back by the Leinster side.
Darragh Canavan led the way for the Red Hands during this period. His five points in that first half were adddd to by Joe Oguz and Peter Harte. But, they simply couldn’t shake off the Westmeath challenge, and the Lake county led 0-9 to 0-8 at the break.
More of the same beckoned on the resumption as well. Ruairi Canavan brought the teams level soon after the restart, as John Heslin edged Westmeath ahead.
But Tyrone appeared to be taking control. Three points in a row courtesy of Darragh (2) and Ruairi Canavan saw them lead by 0-12 to 0-10. Better was to follow, too, as they entered the closing stages of the game in pole position to capitalise.
Darragh Canavan, Kieran McGeary and the impressive Conn Kilpatrick all pointed to leave them 0-15 to 0-11 ahead. However, then, came the moment which proved to be a turning point and would have proven immensely controversial had Westmeath gone on to seal the victory.
A great run forward by Conn Kilptrick culminated in him bearing down on the goals. Just as he was about to shoot, though, he was hauled down by Kevin Maguire. Darragh Canavan converted the resulting free, but the incident and the failure to deliver a black card for the opposition player caused a lot of annoyance.
Tyrone led by 0-16 to 0-12 at this stage, but they added just two more points. Instead, Westmeath hauled themselves back into contention. They hit four of the final five points to draw level, as John Heslin stepped up to take that final free.
His shot went just wide, the final whistle sounded moments later and Tyrone’s progress to the preliminary quarter final was confirmed.