They survived the loss of their inspirational full back Kevin Keane after just ten minutes, then lost their goalkeeper Patrick O’Malley to a black card with six minutes to go and conceded a penalty, which was converted and saw their lead pared back to three points, then two points and then one point as six agonising minutes of injury time seemed to take an age to tick by, but when the full time whistle was blown, the warriors from Westport were All Ireland intermediate champions.
What a day for the Covies' it was, they were brilliant and at times made mistakes that looked like might just cost them, but they dug deep and became the first team from Mayo to lift the All Ireland Intermediate Club Championship on Croke Park.
The Meath champions went into an early lead through a close in point from Graham Reilly, with four minutes gone on the clock, Ben Brennan had two efforts from placed balls that tailed wide either side of that score as the Leinister champions hit the ground running better in the early exchanges.
Finally that winning feeling: Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane embrace at full time. Photo: Sportsfile
Westport levelled it up through the first of four inspirational scores from man-of-the-match Shane Scott, who drove the ball over the bar from long range. It looked like disaster might have struck for Westport when Keane went down clutching his knee under the Cusack Stand, after a long period of treatment their rock at full back wasn’t able to continue and it forced them to shuffle the decks, with Brian O’Malley moving back to fill the hole at full back, a job he did brilliantly well all afternoon.
Fionn McDonagh edged Westport in front with a free from close range after Colm Moran was hauled the ground, Moran ran Scott close in the man-of-the-match stakes finishing the day with four points, and he was a constant thorn in the side of the St Colmcille’s defence.
Just before the 20 minute mark, McDonagh put over another pointed free after Paul Lambert was fouled close in on goal, and a minute later Moran got his first of the day, a brilliant effort that saw him beat two men, before putting the ball between the posts.
It just kept getting better for Westport, Moran added another point, then Scott hit one more from downtown, Moran tagged on his third not long after and scoring run of eight on the bounce was brought to an end by a McDonagh effort from play putting Westport 0-8 to 0-1 in the lead with 25 minutes gone on the stopwatch.
However, Westport were about to get a warning that they couldn’t take anything for granted as Graham Reilly cut right through the heart of the Westport defence and found James Conlon in space and he drove it high to the net, past Patrick O’Malley. Westport responded in the best way possible wit Oisin McLoughlin scoring a superb individual goal, picking the ball up on the sideline on the Hogan Stand side and blitzing his was through the Colmcille’s defence before driving the ball to the back off the net, to raise the green flag. Moran kicked his fourth score of the day a minute later and all was good again for the Westport faithful who came to the Cathedral of Gaelic games to cheer on their players.
The Meath men did rally before the break, with Cathal Hillard and Reilly adding on points, to leave six between the sides at the short whistle. St Colmcille’s kicked the first two scores of the second half with Brennan and Reilly putting the ball between the posts, to leave it a four point game as the Westport shooting radar deserted them in the second half, they ended up kicking ten wides over the final 30 or so minutes, while their opponents had only one wide.
That man Scott, kicked another inspirational score from well out the park to settle his sides nerves, but with 18 minutes left on the clock Colmcille’s landed a stinging jab, in the form of their second goal. Reilly lined up a free that came back of the top of the post and into the arms of Brennan who smashed it to the net from close range to get the traveling supporters from the shadow of Croagh Patrick nervous in their seats. Phil Keegan kicked a rallying point and O’Malley sauntered up from goal, to land a 45’ to put his side back in command on a score of 1-12 to 2-5 with 12 minutes to go in normal time. Ciaran Kelly responded with a free for the Leinister champions to edge them back into contention on 50 minutes. Sixty seconds later, the vital score in the game arrived it looked like, when Moran broke the cover on the Cusack Stand side and made haste for goal, he took the right option and fed it across the face of the small square where McLoughlin was on hand to palm it to the back of the net, putting his side into a 2-12 to 2-6 lead, job done…. or so we thought.
Brotherly Love: Phil and Lee Keegan celebrate at full time. Photo: Sportsfile
Six minutes from time the ball was played into the danger area, Robbie McCluskey chased after it, but was never going to stop it from going over the endline, Patrick O’Malley advanced and looked to trip the Colmcille’s man when there was no need to. Initially, referee Niall Cullen signalled it was a wide, but after a few seconds of confusion, he outstretched his arms and gave the spot kick and sent off O’Malley on a black card. Jack Reynolds stood up and drove it to the net past Arron Dunne who came on from O’Malley and it was now a three point game.
It was going to come down to the wire and when six minutes of injury time was signalled, there was plenty of time for the Meath men to steal this one. Eoin Woods hit over a point three minutes into it, then Brennan cut the gap back to just one with little over 90 seconds left and the fingernails were being bitten in Westport and by Covies around the globe. With the final play of the game Ciaran Kelly pumped the ball in long, it dropped a few yards short of the goal and Dunne had to be brave and composed and that’s exactly what he was punching it clear and seconds later, the full time whistle blew and Westport were in the promised land.
Westport: Colm Moran 0-4, Oisin McLoughlin 2-0, Fionn McDonagh 0-3, Shane Scott 0-3, Phil Keegan 0-1, Patrick O'Malley 0-1 (f ).
St Colmcilles: Ben Brennan 1-2, Jack Reynolds 1-0 (1-0 pen ), James Conlon 1-0, Graham Reilly 0-3 (1f ), Cathal Hillard 0-1, Ciaran Kelly 0-1 (f ), Eoin Woods 0-1.
Westport: Patrick O'Malley; Keelan Dever, Kevin Keane, Niall McManamon; Brian McDermott, Lee Keegan, James Walsh; Brian O'Malley, Shane Scott; Fionn McDonagh, Phil Keegan, Liam Staunton; Colm Moran, Paul Lambert, Oisin McLoughlin.
Subs: David Horan for Keane (11 ), Ronan Geraghty for Staunton (h/t ), Aaron Dunne for P O'Malley (56, black card ).
St Colmcilles: Jordan Brown; Adam Lynch, Ciaran Ward, Jamie McDonnell; Eoin Woods, Ian Mullen, Joe Sweeney; David Sheeran, Robbie McCloskey; Cathal Hillard, Ben Brennan, David O'Byrne; Graham Reilly, Niall Ronan, James Conlon.
Subs: Jack Reynolds for D O'Byrne (41 ), Conor O'Byrne for Sweeney (41 ), Ciaran Kelly for Ronan 45, Jeff Kavanagh for McDonnell (53 ), Ronan for Hillard (64 ).