Westmeath's comeback win sealed by one of the best catches you'll ever see
Niall Mitchell was Westmeath's hero as they rose from the dead, roared back to life and, on a miraculous afternoon, staged an incredible comeback win over Wexford.
You talk about super-subs - Mitchell's contribution is why the very term was coined.
The Clonkill/Downs forward always rises to the big occasion, whether it's hurling or football, but his Chadwicks Wexford Park cameo may well go down as his best outing yet.
In just 20 minutes on the pitch, the big forward stunned the south east into silence. He turned the Leinster championship upside down.
Joe Fortune's team were eleven points down when they sprung Mitchell from the bench. The manager will have known what Mitchell is capable of but expectations would have been tempered somewhat by the fact that, due to injury, the star forward has barely featured in this campaign.
But he hit the heights straight away.
The miraculous Westmeath comeback in all its glory#sundaygame
📺 Watch live https://t.co/ZfZ9mA9XTY
📱 Report https://t.co/HGVbwvU83c pic.twitter.com/I02PpsQH0D
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 21, 2023
Having been 17 points down just before half-time, Westmeath were slowly eating into Wexford's lead by the time Mitchell had entered the fray. But his soaring catches and well-taken goals were the push they needed to seal an amazing comeback.
With a man like Mitchell on the pitch, hurling becomes a simple game.
Fortune spoke after the match about going back to basics and both Tommy Doyle and Peter Clarke were heeding their manager when they boomed successive high balls into the edge of square on top of Mitchell.
“I said ‘just go and hurl for the second half and cut out these things of systems and shapes and puck-outs," said Fortune of his half-time team-talk. In other words, just let thing in to the big man!
Still, with Matthew O'Hanlon for company, Mitchell had it all to do but his soaring catches were incredible - his second one in the video above in particular. And his finishes were sharp as you'll see.
The loss knocks Wexford out of the All-Ireland championship but their troubles don't end there.
The warning signs were there for them when they drew with Westmeath last year but they could pay a heavier price for this one - if they lose to Kilkenny next week and Antrim beat Westmeath - then they'll be relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup.
As for Westmeath, they're not out of the relegation woods yet - they'll still need a a result against Antrim if Wexford are to beat Kilkenny. So as it turns out, Munster isn't the only good hurling championship in the business.