Red card costly as Meath edged out in Joe McDonagh Cup
Meath hurlers are still searching for a first Joe McDonagh Cup victory after today's four-point fourth round reversal (1-19 to 2-20) against Westmeath at Pairc Tailteann.
Playing with 14 men for the final quarter, Jack Regan was red-carded ahead of the second water-break after Clare referee Rory McGann consulted with an umpire, Meath displayed great character and determination to lead as the clock ticked towards added time.
Westmeath substitute Eoin Ahearn drew the sides level (1-18 apiece) for only the fifth time and with five minutes added it gave the Lake County men a chance to grind out the victory.
They had to turn to footballer Luke Loughlin for salvation with a goal that just about made it across the line in the 72nd minute.
Loughlin lined out against Dublin in the Leinster SFC quaretr-final two weeks ago and was only thrown into the action after 26 minutes when he replaced midfielder Jack Galvin.
The goal gave Westmeath the lead for only the second time in a game where they were playing catch up for the most part after a brief period of dominance in the opening half.
Wind-assisted Meath were ahead by 1-12 to 1-8 at the interval and despite squandering a number of goal chances were well worth that four-point cushion.
An early Shane Williams goal revived Westmeath and had them on terms (1-2 to 0-5) after 12 minutes.
Alan Cox and Aonghus Clarke (free) claimed the points while three Adam Gannon points, which included one of the missed goal chances, Padraic O'Hanrahan and Jack Walsh sustained Meath.
Westmeath hit the front briefly with points from Darragh Clinton and Robbie Greville, but Keith Keoghan, Alan Douglas and Regan (free) had Meath in the ascendancy by 0-8 to 1-4 at the first water break.
Shane Brennan was superb at full-back as Meath dictated the remainder with O'Hanrahan (two frees), Regan and Stephen Morris sending over and Jack Walsh claiming an opportunist goal for that interval advantage.
Faltering Westmeath had to work hard for points from Joey Boyle, Cormac Boyle, Clarke (free) and Niall Mitchell.
After the resumption Westmeath upped the tempo without any immediate reward, but they got back on terms with four Clarke points (two frees), and one Cormac Boyle, Mitchell and Joey Boyle.
Westmeath also wasted a gilt-edged goal chance withon 60 second of the resumption, but Meath battled to stay in the game with a brace of O'Hanrahan pointed frees and one from Regan (free).
Then came the turning point when Regan got his marching orders, but Meath got to the second water break on terms and were resolute after play resumed with Walsh firing them into the lead.
Damien Healy was Introduced for Douglas for what was the Longwood man's 100th game for the county team and with O'Hanrahan adding two more points the Westmeath alarm bells were ringing loudly.
Points from Cormac Boyle, Clarke (free) and Joey Boyle got them back on terms and then Loughlin got the sliotar across the line depsite the best efforts of substitute Meath goalie Charlie Ennis who replaced the injured Mark McCormack in the 61st minute.
A goal down and a man down in added time was a bridge too far for Meath on this occasion although O'Hanrahan's pointed free cut the deficit to two before Clarke took his tally to nine with a brace of frees for a relieved Westmeath side.
Westmeath - Aonghus Clarke 0-9 seven frees; Luke Loughlin 1-0; Shane Williams 1-0; Joey Boyle 0-3; Cormac Boyle 0-3; Niall Mitchell 0-2; Alan Cox 0-1; Darragh Clinton 0-1; Robbie Greville 0-1.
Meath - Padraic O'Hanrahan 0-8 frees; Jack Walsh 1-2; Adam Gannon 0-3;Jack Regan 0-3 two frees; Keith Keoghan 0-1, Stephen Morris 0-1; Alan Douglas 0-1.
Westmeath - Eoin Skelly; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Aonghus Clarke, Alan Cox Jack Galvin, Cormac Boyle; Niall MItchell, Joey Boyle, Robbie Greville; Brendan Doyle, Shane Williams, Darragh Clinton. Subs - Luke Loughlin for Galvin 26 mins, Derek McNicholas for Clinton 51m, Brendan Murtagh for Williams 62m, Eoin Ahearn for Mitchell 68m, Conor Kane for Doyle 70m.
Meath - Mark McCormack; Michael Burke, Shane Brennan, Sean Geraghty; Shane Whitty, Darragh Kelly, Keith Keoghan; Padraic O’Hanrahan, Paddy Conneely; Alan Douglas, Stephen Morris, Jack Regan; Adam Gannon, Cathal McCabe, Jack Walsh. Subs - James Kelly for McCabe half-time; Daithi McGowan for Gannon 43 mins, Damien Healy for Douglas and Mark Molloy for Conneeley both 58m, Charlie Ennis for McCormack 61m.
Referee - Rory McGann (Clare).
JOE MCDONAGH CUP FACTFILE
First round - Kerry 1-20, Meath 0-13; Antrim 4-25, Westmeath 1-15.
Second round - Westmeath 0-14, Kerry 2-19; Carlow 2-25, Antrim 5-16
Third round - Carlow 1-22, Meath 1-21; Antrim 3-18, Kerry 2-14.
SATURDAY 21st NOVEMBER
Fourth round - Westmeath 2-20, Meath 1-19; Kerry 2-22, Carlow 1-23.
SATURDAY 28th NOVEMBER
Fifth round - Meath v Antrim; Westmeath v Carlow.