The Irish Mail on Sunday
WESTMEATH relied on a little Devine inspiration in Mullingar to keep their MacCarthy Cup survival hopes alive.
Corner-forward Alan Devine shot a stunning 2-3, including two late goals, to secure a winner-takes-all promotion/ relegation clash with the Christy Ring Cup champions.
The winners of that tie will play in the 2015 Leinster Championship, while the losers will be involved in the lower-tier competition.
Westmeath will be weakened for the play-off tie as two of their players were sent off during yesterday’s Cusack Park clash, one on a straight red card.
Midfielder Ciarán Curley faces a onematch ban, though key forward Niall O’Brien was booked twice so faces no suspension. London also finished the match with 13 men.
It wasn’t an ill-tempered game but referee Éamonn Hassan still dished out a whopping four reds and 11 yellow cards during the contest.
London looked for long spells like they might claim their first-ever Championship win over Westmeath.
That would have elevated them into third position in the qualifying series table, and allowed them to avoid a play-off.
The 2012 Ring Cup winners led by three at half-time, 0-7 to 0-4. They deserved their advantage but it was poor fare generally.
The sides had traded just four points with 20 minutes on the clock. Westmeath kicked themselves for missing three good goal chances. O’Brien twice went close and then played in Devine who shot just wide.
They were costly misses as London were more efficient in their attack, which was led by Eoin Kelly who shot 1-8 overall.
Kelly hit four of his five first-half points from frees but he was also lively in open play for the visitors.
Four London points in a row left them four points clear, 0-7 to 0-3, after 32 minutes before Philip Gilsenan pulled one back for Westmeath.
And there was another big blow on the stroke of half-time for the Exiles when Darren Moore was sent to the sideline.
The midfielder picked up his second yellow card in controversial circumstances and flung his helmet on the ground in desperation.
A resurgent Westmeath capitalised on their extra numbers to eat into London’s lead and draw level.
Aongus Clarke’s third point of the game tied the contest at 0-9 apiece after 46 minutes.
And though the red mist descended late on, Westmeath held their heads with Devine goals in the 64th and 71st minutes saving them. Westmeath: P Collins; K Duncan, T Doyle, L Varley (0-1); P Reilly, A Craig, G Greville; P Gilsenan (0-1), C Curley; R Greville, E Price, A Clarke (0-3); A Devine (2-3), D McNicholas, N O’Brien (0-4, 3f). subs: T Gallagher for McNicholas 53. London: J Barrett; C Hickey, R Foy, C McAlinden; E Cooney, PJ Rowe, S Frawley; D Moore, D Egan (0-1); M Lynch, M Duggan (0-1), K Killilea; H Vaughan (0-2), E Kelly (1-8, 1-7f), P Cocoman. subs: L Hands for Cocoman 48, B Regan for Lynch 50, P Barry for Vaughan 66, M Holohan for Killilea 67. Referee: É Hassan (Derry).