Kerry survive Westmeath scare
15/07/2012 - 17:19:09
Westmeath 1-12 Kerry 2-10
Kerry were made to fight for their place in the third round draw for the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers as a spirited Westmeath side put it up to them in Mullingar.
The Lakesiders were in dream land when David Glennon planted a penalty home, sending the huge underdogs into a 1-9 to 1-3 lead early in the second half.
However, half-time substitute Darran O’Sullivan sparked Kerry’s revival by scoring their second goal and they took over from there.
The first half saw Westmeath get on top with youngster John Heslin in inspirational form in midfield.
Kerry, whose first goal was a Bryan Sheehan penalty, only scored once from play in the first half - a 31st minute point from captain Colm Cooper - as they trailed 0-8 to 1-3 at the interval.
But O’Sullivan’s input and that of a number of the Kingdom’s star names, allied to Westmeath’s tiredness, saw Jack O’Connor’s men prevail by the minimum in the end.
O'Connor must have had stern words for his players after they hit seven wides in the opening 35 minutes and fell 0-4 to 0-1 behind early on.
Cooper, who was switched in to full-forward, kicked them ahead with a first minute free. However, the Lakesiders roared back at them with Kieran Martin kickstarting a flurry of points.
There were further points from play from Ger Egan and late additions Denis Corroon and Ronan Foley, who came in for Callum McCormack and Daniel McDermott respectively, as the energetic hosts took the game to the Kingdom.
Kerry hit back in the 11th minute when the fit-again Bryan Sheehan sent goalkeeper Darren Quinn the wrong way with a penalty that was awarded for a foul on Kieran Donaghy.
The pace quickened as Paul Sharry added his name to the Westmeath scoresheet and Heslin and Sheehan traded frees, leaving Westmeath 0-6 to 1-2 in front.
Clearly with the bit between their teeth, Pat Flanagan's side stretched their lead to two points by the interval with Heslin and Martin sandwiching Cooper's lone score from play.
The chances of a shock result increased on the resumption when Michael Ennis was brought down for a penalty and the ball was duly dispatched to the net by nerveless full-forward Glennon.
It was Kerry's cue to find an extra gear or two and in former captain O'Sullivan, they had the ideal man. He burst through in trademark fashion to fire past Quinn and reduce the arrears to 1-9 to 2-3.
Suddenly it was all Kerry as their greater experience and fitness told. Paul Galvin pulled the strings in a play-making role as points flowed from newcomer James O'Donoghue, who nabbed a brace, Galvin himself and Sheehan. Heslin responded for Westmeath whose lead was wiped out by the 52nd minute - 1-10 to 2-7.
Cooper and Heslin swapped points again but a late brace from Sheehan, who was injured for the Munster semi-final defeat to Cork, nudged Kerry ahead and they held on despite a late Heslin effort.
It was a case of close but no cigar for this valiant Westmeath team.
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