Kerry 1-13 Westmeath 1-18
A fired-up Westmeath had too much for Kerry at a rain-sodden Austin Stack Park as they overcame the 14-man hosts 1-18 to 1-13 in their Leinster SHC round 2 qualifier.
Kerry’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss full-forward Mikey Boyle to a red card late in the second half and an injury to key player Michael O’Leary.
The Kingdom played second fiddle to Westmeath side after the break and they must now face Offaly in two weeks' time, when a win or draw will see them advance to the Leinster quarter-finals.
Nothing went right for Kerry but it wasn’t until the second half that the visitors began to press home their advantage.
Westmeath, who defeated Offaly so comprehensively in round 1 last weekend, opened the scoring in the second minute through midfielder Eoin Price but Shane Nolan levelled shortly afterwards when Jack Goulding was fouled.
Kerry were taking advantage of their extra numbers at the back with Darren Dineen in particular delivering long ball to a dangerous looking forward division.
Points followed from John Egan and a Nolan free after a Westmeath defender picked the ball up off the ground.
Kerry appeared to be having initial difficulties with the Westmeath system and they had a number of free men around the middle third of the pitch. This allowed Liam Varley to cut the gap with a nice point in the eighth minute.
The crucial score of the opening half came 60 seconds later when a ball dropped in from the right wing, Michael O’Leary sent it across the goal and when it broke, somehow Mikey Boyle, as he was falling, got his shot away and he buried it in the back of the Westmeath net.
Westmeath took over for the next 10 minutes, their full-back Tommy Doyle and wing-backs Aaron Craig and Aonghus Clarke to the fore, and Kerry did not score during this period.
Westmeath were level by the 20th minute thanks to points from Derek McNicholas, Alan Devine, Cormac Boyle and a free from Niall O’Brien to see Kerry level on a 1-3 to 0-6 scoreline.
Kerry eventually got to grips with the Westmeath game plan and John Griffin and Daniel Collins started to collect breaking ball at midfield while Patrick Kelly, Keith Carmody and Darren Dineen won vital ball at the back.
John Griffin fired Kerry ahead in the 22nd minute and despite shooting six first-half wides, excellent efforts from Jack Goulding, Brendan O’Leary and Nolan (two frees) had them 1-8 to 0-7 in front at the break.
Westmeath were a different team in the second half. They were totally dominant, scoring four points on the resumption from midfielders Eoin Price and Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville (his second) and Cormac Boyle again to draw level.
Kerry were clearly struggling and a point from Mikey Boyle eased them ahead again.
However, Westmeath’s response was immediate and deadly. Derek McNicholas was in the right place to drill home Eoin Price’s long delivery in the 44th minute and this goal was the crucial score as it put them 1-11 to 1-9 ahead, a lead they would never surrender.
Westmeath were now dominant and four points in succession from Derek McNicholas, Niall O’Brien (2) and Aonghus Clarke in reply to a Philip Lucid point for the hosts had them ahead by four with 57 minutes gone.
Brendan O’Leary kept Kerry in the hunt but Derek McNicholas, who was now thundering into the action, eased Westmeath five clear on the 58th minute.
Westmeath finished strongly and points from Niall O’Brien and Brendan Murtagh pushed them six clear.
Kerry needed goals to revive their challenge but points from Lucid and Brandon Barrett were their only reward as Westmeath advanced to play Carlow knowing they have a home quarter-final with Galway secured. Kerry must regroup for their crunch collision with Offaly.
Kerry: Aidan McCabe; Bryan Murphy, Patrick Kelly, Keith Carmody; Jason Diggins, Darren Dineen, Tom Murnane; John Griffin, Daniel Collins; Brendan O’Leary (0-2), Michael O’Leary (0-1), Shane Nolan (0-4,0-4 f); Jack Goulding (0-2), Mikey Boyle (1-1), John Egan (0-1)
Subs: Philip Lucid (0-2, 2 frees) for S Nolan ( h/t), Jordan Conway for M O’Leary ( 45), Tommy Casey for J Griffin ( 56), John Buckley for Daniel Collins (64th min); Brandon Barrett (0-1)for Jack Goulding (68th min).
Westmeath: Paddy Maloney; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Tommy Gallagher; Aaron Craig, Garry Greville, Aonghus Clarke (0-1); Cormac Boyle (0-3), Eoin Price (0-2); Alan Devine (0-1), Derek McNicholas (1-3), Robbie Greville (0-2); Liam Varley (0-1), Darragh Egerton, Niall O’Brien (0-4, 4f).
Subs: Niall Mitchell for T Gallagher (25), Brendan Murtagh (0-1(for D Egerton (58), Warren Casserly for Alan Devine (67), Darragh Clinton for
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)