In a stunning display of determination and resilience, Westmeath orchestrated a breathtaking comeback, overturning a 16-point halftime deficit to secure a remarkable victory against Wexford in the Leinster round-robin clash at Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday.
Westmeath’s first hurling championship win over Wexford since 1940.
Initially, it appeared that Wexford, led by Darragh Egan, was on a smooth path to victory, holding a commanding 2-14 to 0-3 lead after 32 minutes. However, the tides shifted dramatically in the second half as Westmeath unleashed a powerful resurgence, with Niall O’Brien scoring two crucial goals to ignite their rally. The remarkable turnaround was eventually sealed by substitute Niall Mitchell, who delivered two late goals to secure an unforgettable win.
Wexford, now facing a challenging fixture against Kilkenny next Sunday, finds themselves in a relegation battle alongside Westmeath and Antrim. The upcoming clash between the latter two teams will be pivotal in determining their fate.
The first half showcased Wexford’s dominance as they quickly established a formidable lead, racing ahead to 1-7 to 0-1 within the first 15 minutes. Westmeath struggled to make an impact, managing just a single point from a Ciarán Doyle free in the opening 21 minutes. Meanwhile, Rory O’Connor and Mikie Dwyer spearheaded Wexford’s early onslaught, with Conor McDonald capitalizing on their efforts to find the net twice.
Wexford’s Jack O’Connor added to their first-half brilliance with a remarkable line-ball score from an impressive distance of 50 yards, further extending their lead to a commanding 2-15 to 0-5 at halftime.
However, Westmeath, under the guidance of manager Joe Fortune, a Wexford native, regrouped during the break and made critical changes to their lineup. They emerged in the second half with renewed vigor, immediately closing the gap with 1-4 unanswered points, bringing the score to 2-15 to 1-9 by the 43rd minute. Ciarán Doyle contributed three points, including two frees, while Niall O’Brien’s uplifting goal injected further momentum into Westmeath’s resurgence.
Although Wexford appeared to regain their rhythm with three Lee Chin points and another exceptional sideline cut by Jack O’Connor, they were denied multiple goals, leaving Westmeath counting their blessings. Jack O’Connor missed a penalty after a foul on his brother, and both he and Conor McDonald were thwarted in quick succession on 57 minutes.
Westmeath’s relentless pursuit paid off when Niall O’Brien received a long delivery and converted it into a goal, reducing the deficit to 2-22 to 2-13 in the 62nd minute. Points from Joseph Boyle, Niall O’Brien, and substitute Derek McNicholas, who had previously secured a draw for Westmeath in last year’s encounter, continued the astonishing comeback. Finally, Niall Mitchell emerged as the hero, delivering two extraordinary goals in the 70th minute and two minutes into added time, propelling Westmeath to a 4-16 to 2-21 lead.
Despite almost six minutes of added time, Wexford failed to bridge the gap, and their championship hopes were shattered by Westmeath’s unwavering determination.
Notable scorers for Westmeath included Ciarán Doyle with 0-11 (10 frees), Niall O’Brien with 2-3 (1 free), Niall Mitchell with 2-0, and several others contributing single points. Wexford’s standout performers were Conor McDonald