Leinster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final: Offaly 0-10, Westmeath 0-10
Twenty years after they last finished all-square in the Leinster Senior Football Championship, Offaly and Westmeath could not be separated after 70 minutes at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park on Sunday afternoon.
They must meet again next Saturday afternoon at TEG Cusack Park for the right to face reigning champions Dublin in a semi-final.
John Heslin brought the teams level for the final time in the third minute of injury-time after a foul on substitute Denis Glennon – who won a Leinster title with the Lake County back in 2004.
Offaly had by then been reduced to 13 players; Ruairi Allen received a second yellow for the foul on Glennon and Michael Brazil dismissed in the 58th minute. The only ‘black card’ of the afternoon was also handed out to Offaly, with Anton Sullivan sent to the line just a minute after his introduction.
The sides were tied at 0-9 apiece when Brazil – who had been featuring prominently for the Faithful County – was sent off but backed by the wind the home side edged ahead in the 62nd minute through Graham Guilfoyle.
Offaly kicked a couple of bad wides after that and Westmeath pushed up in a desperate search for an equaliser, which eventually arrived deep into injury time.
Played in front of 8,723 supporters, the game was a tense and at times dour affair with both managers reluctant to commit players forward.
Offaly were probably the happier of the two sides at half time as they went in tied at 0-6 apiece after playing against a strong wind.
Nigel Dunne was on target with two frees for Offaly in the opening quarter, while Ger Egan and Shane Dempsey found the range early on for Westmeath.
A second from Egan was soon followed by another by Noel Mulligan, giving Westmeath a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage.
Offaly then hit four in a row through Michael Brazil (2), Nigel Dunne and Graham Guilfoyle. But John Heslin hit back both from play and a free before the interval.
Scorers were even harder to come by in the second half as the sides were level on a further four occasions.
Rhode club mates Niall Darby and Niall McNamee raised Offaly’s hopes with a point apiece either side of a Ger Egan score for Westmeath.
But Heslin responded with a free, and points were traded again by Johnny Moloney and the inspirational Egan.
Late on, Guilfoyle gave Offaly the edge, but Westmeath had the last say and so we had the first draw of the 2017 Leinster Senior Football Championship.
Offaly Scorers: Nigel Dunne (1f) 0-3; Michael Brazil, Graham Guilfoyle 0-2 each; Niall McNamee, Niall Darby, Johnny Moloney 0-1 each.
Westmeath Scorers: John Heslin (3f), Ger Egan 0-4 each; Shane Dempsey, Noel Mulligan 0-1 each.
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Eoin Rigney, Sean Pender; Niall Darby, Peter Cunningham, Cian Donoghue; Eoin Carroll, David Hanlon; Michael Brazil, Graham Guilfoyle, Nigel Dunne; Ruairi Allen, Johnny Moloney, Niall McNamee.
Subs: James Lawlor for B Darby (2); Joseph O’Connor for M Brazil (temp, 22 to 24); J O’Connor for E Carroll (53), Anton Sullivan for D Hanlon (59), Bernard Allen for A Sullivan (black card, 61), Ruairi McNamee for N Dunne (66).
WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Jamie Gonoud, Kevin Maguire, Killian Daly; James Dolan, Paddy Holloway, Mark McCallon; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry, Noel Mulligan; Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Shane Dempsey.
Subs: David Lynchh for S Dempsey (HT), John Connellan for A Stone (48), John Egan for K Reilly (52), Tommy McDaniel for K Martin (58), Denis Glennon for N Mulligan (64), Callum McCormack for Glennon (70 +3).
Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).