Shane Reid (Athlone) gets to grips with Killucan’s Joey Boyle.

Keyes’ goal fires the Saffrons

Shay Murtagh Precast Westmeath SFC Section 'B': Killucan 1-12, Athlone 2-8

Gerry Buckley reports

In what may yet prove to have been a crucial game in deciding one of the quarter-finalists from section B of the Westmeath senior football championship, Killucan were narrow – but worthy – winners against Athlone in very pleasant conditions in Kinnegad last Sunday evening.

Rory Keyes pointed neatly for the winners after 90 seconds, but Athlone – who had the aid of a slight breeze in the first moiety – took the lead five minutes later when Stephen O’Connor sent David Bryan the wrong way from the penalty spot after Cillian Lynn had been fouled inside the large parallelogram, at the end of an eye-catching move by the Shannonsiders.

Stephen Morley’s charges were on level terms (0-3 to 1-0) by the end of the opening quarter courtesy of a point apiece from Devin Hill (a lovely individual score) and Sean Leech (shortly after an ambitious goal attempt at the other end by Ray Connellan was just short of the target).

Sami Clarke’s delay in taking a scoreable free resulted in the ball being thrown in before a great crossfield pass by Shane Allen teed up Eamon Martin for the lead score for Athlone. Clarke equalised from a 20th-minute free.

The respective number 14s, Eoin Keyes and Connellan, traded quality points towards the end of normal time, but a point from lively sub Donagh Prendergast left Athlone ahead by 1-3 to 0-5 at the interval.

The losers stretched their advantage by firing over three unanswered points in the opening two minutes of the second half, courtesy of O’Connor (two – a routine free and a great team score) and half-time sub Conor Rushe.

However, the saffron and white-clad outfit were on level terms again by the 41st minute, raising four white flags without reply via Killian Doyle (two), Darren Finn and Rory Keyes – all delightful scores.

A point exchange from frees between O’Connor and Hill left the teams tied (0-10 to 1-7) at the end of the third quarter.

Killucan went into a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish in the 50th minute, Finn and Sean Quinn combining for Eoin Keyes to solo goalward and score a fabulous goal.

A great piece of fielding by Leech set up Ciaran Doyle who made an instant impression from the bench by pointing in the 53rd minute.

Athlone, under the tutelage of Eoin Jordan and Fergal Murray, went into all-out attack and were rewarded with a fine point from Connellan.

Crucially, this was cancelled out by a Cormac Boyle score (after fine play by Ciaran Doyle) in the 58th minute. Deep into added-time, Bryan’s fisted clearance was inadequate and Prendergast was on hand to blast the ball past him from close range.

However, time had run out for the men in the sky blue and white hoops, and it was their opponents who took a giant step in the race for knockout football.

Man of the match: Robbie Greville (Killucan). Better known as a hurler, the winners’ centre half back was impressive all through, both defensively and offensively.

Scorers – Killucan: E Keyes 1-1, R Keyes, D Hill (1f) and K Doyle 0-2 each, S Leech, S Clarke (f), D Finn, C Doyle and C Boyle 0-1 each. Athlone: S O’Connor 1-3 (1-0pen, 0-2f), D Prendergast 1-1, R Connellan 0-2, E Martin and C Rushe 0-1 each.

Killucan: David Bryan; Andrew Flood, Sam Smith, Luke Darby; Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville, Sean Quinn; Sean Leech, Joey Boyle; Sami Clarke, Killian Doyle, Darren Finn; Devin Hill, Eoin Keyes, Rory Keyes. Subs used: Aron Kiernan for Clarke (35), Ciaran Doyle for K Doyle (52), Frank Boyle for Flood (55), Eamon Cunneen for C Boyle (60 + 1).

Athlone: Darren Costello; Noel Mulligan, James Finlass, Dylan Rushe; Shane Allen, Diarmuid Martin, Michael Byrne; John Stapleton, Shane Reid; Kieran Colclough, Stephen O’Connor, Eamon Martin; Cillian Lynn, Ray Connellan, Benny Martin. Subs used: Donagh Prendergast for Rushe (22), Conor Rushe for B Martin (h-t), Mark Egan for C Rushe (47), Darren Magee for Reid (55), Anto Johnson for O’Connor (inj., 58).

Ref: Barry Kelly (Mullingar Shamrocks).