First, Barney Healy’s penalty with five minutes left kept Westmeath’s hopes alive, putting them behind by just two points, 1-13 to 1-11. Roscommon had seen their lead dwindle but they responded well with a point from their excellent wing forward, Jim McVerdy. Then, as Roscommon scrambled to hold on for their place in the final, disaster struck in the form of James Stones.
The Westmeath forward latched onto a botched Roscommon clearance and rifled a bullet to the back of the net to equalize on virtually the game’s final kick. That meant extra time for a match that had actually begun on Thursday evening.
The JFB semifinal was slow in getting started on Thursday, when no referee appeared to take charge. One team showed up without jerseys and then when the jerseys arrived, the other club said it was too dark to continue. As a result of that fiasco, this game pushed the Junior Football Final off the schedule, until who knows when. Westmeath, who had been 0-3 up on Thursday were probably ruing their luck as McVerdy and Danny O’Sullivan led Roscommon to a 0-9 to 0-6 halftime lead.
McVerdy knocked over 0-4 in the first half and O’Sullivan, operating at midfield, added 0-2. Westmeath stayed in touch with 0-2 each from Dermot Kenny and Ger Reilly. But Roscommon looked unlikely to be denied a trip to the final after O’Sullivan’s perfectly struck penalty shot followed McVerdy’s point to start the second half and put Westmeath 0-7 behind.
Westmeath went earnestly about their task with one key move playing a big part. Peter Dalton was switched from his fullback position out to wingback to try and curb the dangerous McVerdy. The Roscommon dangerman added only two more points in the remaining 40 or so minutes under Dalton’s close scrutiny. Meanwhile, Westmeath began picking off points and a Roscommon tactic may have also contributed to Roscommon’s lack of scoring chances.
At the start of the second half Danny O’Sullivan was dropped back to center halfback after being so dominant at the midfield in the first half. O’Sullivan continued to impress, but his defensive role kept him from pushing forward and Roscommon’s attack was stalled. Westmeath scored 0-4 on the trot before O’Sullivan ventured forward to reply with a Roscommon point.
Healy and Roscommon substitute Brian Keenan traded points and then Healy’s peno started the dramatic sequence that led to overtime. Roscommon burst out in front with points from Joe Murray and McVerdy but Healy and Kenny replied in kind and the first of the two ten minute OT periods ended level.
The final 10 minutes were all Westmeath. Roscommon seemed to tire and Westmeath only grew stronger. The Leinster side struck for 0-7 and Roscommon could offer nothing in reply. So Westmeath will challenge Meath for the Junior B laurels.
Man of the Match: Peter Dalton
Westmeath: Paddy Donohue, Andy Gillivan, Peter Dalton, Ray Reynolds, Paddy Spellman, Lorcan Coll, Ronan Tuffy, John Madden, Barry Smith, Frank McKeon (0-2), Ger Reilly (0-4), Barney Healy (1-2), James Stones (1-2), Martin Murtagh (0-1), Dermot Kenny (0-9). Subs: Sean Quirke, Collie Riley.
Roscommon: Mike Deere, Ray Hendley, Marty Browne, Ollie Hoare, Darren O’Neill, John Walsh, Ivan Connelly, Gerry Kelly, Dan O’Sullivan (1-3), Jim McVerdy (0-7), Donie Farrell (0-2), Joe Murray (0-1), Aiden Smith, Niall Rooney (0-1). Subs: Neil Mulvihill (0-1), Declan Fitzpatrick, Chris Elliot, Brian Keenan (0-1).
12 p.m., JH final, New Jersey vs, Tipperary
1:30 p.m.. Westmeath vs. Waterford
3 p.m., SFA semi, Donegal vs. Leitrim
4:30 p.m,. SFB semi , Monaghan vs. Offaly