1999 All-Ireland Under 21 Final

Westmeath's day of glory 

Fallon and Dolan seal historic victory 

Westmeath 0-12
Kerry 0-9

THEY may have been tentative for periods of the opening half but from then on Westmeath ran Kerry, and their imposing football tradition into the ground. At the Gaelic Grounds, yesterday, before a crowd of 9,676, this remarkably resilient side upset the odds to earn their first ever All-Ireland Under-21 football title. 

Four years ago, Luke Dempsey, their celebrated manager, led the county to an historic minor All-Ireland triumph, but yesterday's feat surpasses even that indelible day. You look at the final scoreline and know that there is no way it adequately reflects the superiority Westmeath enjoyed over Kerry yesterday afternoon. 

A jubilant Westmeath manager Luke Dempsey said afterwards that he saw ``no logical reason'' why the county could not now go on and win championships at senior level. ``Today's win augUrs well with the proper structures put in place, there is no reason why Westmeath can't compete at the highest level. I hope we can go on to even greater things. 
``All in all I think this means an awful lot to Westmeath football it's absolutely revolutionary for Westmeath. Everyone could see how much it meant to the supporters today who were absolutely brilliant and that got through to the players.'' 
He said that Kerry had been scoring goals ``left, right and centre'' in their earlier matches and that Westmeath deliberately deployed one midfielder in a defensive position in order to reduce that goal threat. 
Neither side was truly imposing in the opening half, and they stepped off at the interval level, ten points evenly shared. 
But the final half hour belonged to the midlanders who took the game to their famed opponents, winners of the Under-21 title three times in the last four seasons. 

If the scores were level, there was already an obvious distinction emerging between the sides in style and approach, with Westmeath the more single-minded and certainly boasting a better work ethic. As the match wore on, that became more and more pronounced. 
Forwards retreated when necessary to aid their defence, and vice versa, while up front, the main threat came from the two corner men, Dessie Dolan and freetaker Joe Fallon. 

Kerry's attack, in contrast, appeared to operate in slow motion at times, and too many of its constituents were preoccupied with doing impressions of Maurice Fitzgerald holding the ball in one hand and taking an eternity to make a decision. 
Within a minute of the restart, Westmeath went in front for the first time when midfielder Kevin Burke pointed from play and from there on, they showed greater spirit and purpose. 

Further points from Fallon and Dolan frees had them three points clear, and Kerry in disarray, with Westmeath's defiance epitomised by one defiant catch by left corner-back Fergal Murray as Kerry came raiding for resuscitative scores. 
A measure of the poverty of Kerry's performance was that it took them until the 40th minute to score from play left corner-forward Ian Twiss finding a rare gap in the Westmeath cover. 

Fallon responded to restore Westmeath's three-point lead and they opened a four-point gap entering the final quarter when Fallon had another from play, benefiting from a defensive cock-up. 
There was a lifeline for Kerry, though one they scarcely deserved, when Twiss found himself behind the Westmeath defence 13 minutes from time before being tripped by 'keeper Cathal Mullin. However, his penalty, struck low to the left, was well-saved by Mullin who deflected the ball out for a 45. 
Kerry centre-forward Aodán Mac Gearailt landed the resulting 45, but Westmeath refused to yield and rounded off their performance with further points from centre-forward Fergal Wilson and, deep in injury-time, Michael Ennis. 
The first half was more evenly contested and both sides might have had a goal in the opening minutes. Kerry went ahead after seven minutes when Mac Gearailt pointed and though Shane Deering equalised shortly afterwards, it was the reigning All-Ireland champions who led for most of the opening half. 

A minute into first-half injury time, an intelligent ball by the impressive midfielder David O'Shaughnessy forced Kerry into fouling Deering and Fallon's free had the sides level a second time. Mac Gearailt responded immediately, but just before the whistle, an excellent score from Dolan, the final one of the half, gave some hint of the resilience which was to follow. 

SCORERS Westmeath: J Fallon 0-6 (0-3 f), D Dolan 0-3 (0-1f), K Burke, F Wilson and M Ennis 0-1 each. Kerry: A Mac Gearailt 0-5 (0-4 f, 0-1 '45'), N Kennelly 0-3 (0-2f), I Twiss 0-1 

WESTMEATH: C Mullin; P Mullen, J Galvin (D Heavin injured 22), F Murray; B Lambden, A Canning, M Burke; K Burke, D O'Shaughnessy; S Deering, F Wilson, R Browne; J Fallon, M Ennis, D Dolan. 

KERRY: K Cremin; Stephen O'Sullivan, T O'Sullivan, M McCarthy; S Heggarty, T O Se, E Galvin (Sean O'Sullivan 35); T Griffin, J Sugrue; N Kenneally, A MacGearailt, T Kenneally; P Galvin, L Murphy, I Twiss (M Cahill for Twiss, 54). 

REF B Gorman (Armagh). 

Extract from the Irish independent Archives, May 16th, 1999
Comments