Westmeath convincing in seeing off disappointing Offaly
Derek McNicholas goal sets tone for Michael Ryan’s in opening round-robin tie
Niall O’Brien scored seven points against Offaly at Cusack Park on Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho.
Offaly’s decline as a hurling power was rubber-stamped in no uncertain terms in Mullingar yesterday when neighbours Westmeath emerged from the opening game of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round-robin section with a fully-deserved 14-point win.
Despite playing against the wind in the first half, Westmeath looked by far the better team, hurling with great spirit and cohesion. They trailed by 0-2 to 0-1 after eight minutes, but a terrific goal from Derek McNicholas in the ninth minute gave them a two-point lead.
Spurred on by this, Michael Ryan’s men’s confidence grew with Tommy Doyle and Aonghus Clarke dominant in central defensive roles, while Eoin Price and Niall O’Brien were always to the fore further out the field.
A long-range free from O’Brien almost led to a second Westmeath goal in the 19th minute. Substitute Cillian Kiely came closest to finding the net for Eamonn Kelly’s troops, but his low-trajectory shot went over. Westmeath were full value for their five-point interval lead, 1-9 to 0-7.
Any suspicions of a first half fluke were well and truly dispelled within five minutes of the restart during which Westmeath rattled over five unanswered points via O’Brien (two – including a free), Cormac Boyle (two from play) and Liam Varley.
By the 49th minute, Westmeath were 13 points to the good,1-18 to 0-8. Offaly rallied somewhat with a close-range goal from Paddy Murphy in the 53rd minute, quickly followed by a great long-range point from Sean Ryan.
However, a hungrier Westmeath outfit were not to be denied and the outstanding Eoin Price sealed victory with a goal in the 69th minute.
WESTMEATH: P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, A Clarke, G Greville; C Boyle (0-3), R Greville; A Devine (0-1), N O’Brien (0-7, five frees), E Price (1-5); L Varley (0-2), D McNicholas (1-2), D Egerton (0-1). Subs: D Clinton (0-1) for Varley (60 mins), N Mitchell for Devine (63 mins), B Murtagh for Egerton (68 mins), A McGrath for Gallagher (70 mins), J Galvin for Boyle (70+1 mins).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; D Mooney, C McDonald, P Rigney; S Ryan (0-2), D Kelleher, P Camon; P Murphy (1-1), S Kinsella (0-2); C Egan, S Dooley (0-3, frees), J Mulrooney; K Connolly, J Bergin (0-1, free), B Conneely. Subs: C Kiely (0-2) for Mulrooney (28 mins), S Cleary for Conneely (35 mins), P Guinan for Dooley (35 mins), D Shortt for Kelleher (52 mins), D King for Connolly (52 mins), K Connolly for Ryan (60 mins).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).