Valiant Westmeath display falls short
Kildare 2-14 Westmeath 0-18
Despite a huge effort against a fancied Kildare side, Westmeath fell agonisingly short in their bid to reach the 2021 Leinster senior football final at Croke Park this afternoon.
Ultimately, the concession of two goals and shooting 11 wides in the second half proved crucial to Westmeath's downfall on a sweltering hot day in Dublin.
Westmeath led by 0-6 to 0-5 at the first water break and trailed by just the minimum at half-time (0-11 to 0-10).
Castledaly's Lorcan Dolan scored three first-half points and a total of 0-5, with John Heslin contributing a tally of 0-8 to the Westmeath cause by the finish. On the other side, Kildare dangerman Neil Flynn posted seven points.
Kildare always carried the greater goal threat and Jimmy Hyland raised their first green flag in the 43rd minute, getting the vital touch to divert Daniel Flynn's low cross to the net.
The always dangerous Daniel Flynn (one of two changes to Kildare's starting line-up) scored the Lilywhites' second goal on 47 minutes as he exploited gaps in the Westmeath defence.
However, Westmeath refused to go down without a major battle. Although the goal they needed never arrived - Heslin went closest when his low shot was saved by Mark Donnellan at the expense of a '45' - Jack Cooney's men cut Kildare's lead to the minimum as the 70-minute mark approached.
But with Westmeath's shooting and indeed shot selection letting them down, an exquisite point by Kildare sub Shane O'Sullivan proved the insurance score, as Jack O’Connor’s charges advanced to the Leinster final.
Kildare: N Flynn 0-7 (4 frees, 1 '45'); D Flynn and J Hyland (0-1f) 1-1 each; K Feeley, A Masterson, F Conway, A Beirne and S Sullivan 0-1 each. Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (7f); L Dolan 0-5 (1 mark); G Egan, D Lynch, J Dolan, D Giles and S McCartan ('45') 0-1 each.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Mick O'Grady, Eoin Doyle; Kevin Flynn, David Hyland (captain), Ryan Houlihan; Kevin Feely, Aaron Masterson; Daniel Flynn, Fergal Conway, Neil Flynn; Alex Beirne, Ben McCormack, Jimmy Hyland. Subs used: Shea Ryan for Feely (inj., 34 mins); Darragh Malone for Houlihan, Shane O'Sullivan for McCormack (both h-t); Darragh Kirwan for Doyle (52); Brian McLoughlin for J Hyland (67).
Westmeath: Jason Daly; Jack Smith; Kevin Maguire (captain), Boidu Sayeh; James Dolan, Ronan Wallace, Sam McCartan; Denis Corroon, Sam Duncan; Ray Connellan, Ger Egan, David Lynch; Lorcan Dolan, John Heslin, Ronan O'Toole. Subs used: Fola Ayorinde for Corroon (51 mins); Darren Giles for Sayeh (45); Tommy McDaniel for Connellan (62); Nigel Harte for McCartan (71).
Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary).
*See detailed report, reaction, photos and analysis in next week’s paper.