Des Dolan sensationally missed a simple free-kick that would have given Westmeath a dramatic injury-time victory over Meath as an enthralling Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Croke Park ended in a draw – 2-13 apiece. Dolan, arguably the man-of-the-match despite his appalling wide, missed from a mere 13 yards out as Meath luckily hung on to fight another day. Dolan's miss was all the more remarkable considering that just three minutes earlier he had scored his side's equaliser from an almost impossible sideline angle.
Centre-half back Hank Traynor had given Sean Boylan's men a dream start after just 48 seconds when he collected a superb Evan Kelly pass to finish to the net from close range. Daithí Regan almost netted a second for Meath, however, goalkeeper Aidan Lennon produced a good save. Graham Geraghty, donning the Royal's colours for the first time since last July, showed he hadn't lost any of his trademark aggression when he was yellow carded early in the half.
Newcomers David Crimmins and Regan tormented the Westmeath defence throughout the first half, as Meath produced to more direct and effective football to dominate the early exchanges. Dolan's accurate marksmanship kept Westmeath in touch but his team-mate Shane Colleary fluffed a great goal chance when the Royals' defence was caught napping with the score at 1-07 to 0-05. Meath had managed to maintain that five-point margin at the interval - 1-10 to 0-08 – and a victory for Luke Dempsey's side at that stage seemed unlikely.
But Westmeath emerged revitalised in the second half. JP Casey hit a great goal chance straight at Meath goalkeeper Cormac Sullivan. However, they got the goal they deserved when Sullivan failed to collect a high ball in the area. Dolan seized on the mistake and palmed the ball to the net from close range to give his side a two point lead. Worse was to follow for Meath when Colleary's weak shot somehow managed to evade the fumbling Nigel Nestor and Sullivan to bizarrely trickle over the line. That freak score gave Westmeath a lead of five (1-10 to 2-12).
Meath responded, with Regan scoring Meath's first point of the half after 17 minutes of play. Westmeath's lead began to be eroded and Meath went in front by a point (2-13 to 2-12) when Geraghty won a 50-50 challenge against Lennon to score with his hand with just four minutes of normal time remaining.
Donal Curtis was dismissed for a headbutt on Martin Flanagan, who, along with his midfield partner Rory O'Connell, had been instrumental in the Westmeath comeback. Dolan then levelled things with a stunning kick from an extremely narrow sideline angle. Traynor was penalised for illegally picking the ball off the ground inside his own half. The subsequent protests from a swarm of enraged Meath players prompted referee Paddy Russell to take the ball even closer to the Meath goal. But Dolan, with the opportunity to end Westmeath's record of never having beaten Meath in a championship game, shot high and narrowly wide as the match ended all square.
Filed by James Boylan