Limerick eventually find their stride to brush off Westmeath

All-Ireland champions have plenty of room for improvement before the championship

Westmeath’s Niall Mitchell and Richie English of Limerick contest a high ball. Photo: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Westmeath’s Niall Mitchell and Richie English of Limerick contest a high ball. Photo: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

 

Westmeath 0-18 Limerick 3-26

Limerick were made to work in the final quarter to shake off Westmeath before emerging victorious from Mullingar on Sunday afternoon by a 17-point margin.

Three successful placed balls from Aaron Gillane - two frees and a ‘65 after Noel Conaty had done well to save Gillane’s goalbound shot in 16th minute - helped them to a 0-9 to 0-4 lead by first water break, with wind-assisted Westmeath hurling with great spirit.

The losers’ fullback line remained dogged, with Darragh Egerton particularly prominent. Niall O’Brien was accurate from frees and sub Josh Coll rounded off a good showing with a lovely point from play. Séamus Flanagan picked off four points from play throughout the first half and he was replaced at the interval. The Liam MacCarthy Cup holders led by 0-14 to 0-10 at the break.

Surprisingly, John Kiely’s charges failed to pull away from their hosts in the third quarter. Coll superbly doubled his tally for a third unanswered Westmeath point in the 46th minute to leave his side trailing by just three points (0-16 to 0-13). Limerick only led by 0-18 to 0-14 at the second water break.

The visitors’ superior class shone through in the final quarter and they outscored the bottom of the table side in that period by 3-8 to 0-4. Their goals came courtesy of Kyle Hayes, Darren O’Connell and Pat Ryan in the 60th, 69th and 74th minutes respectively as a hitherto-resilient Westmeath defence began to tire.

However, Shane O’Brien’s troops undoubtedly ended their round robin matches on something of a high ahead of their upcoming Joe McDonagh Cup campaign and a Division1 relegation play-off with Laois. For their part, Limerick will be all too aware that huge improvement will be needed for their Munster championship clash with Cork.

Westmeath: N Conaty; D Egerton, T Gallagher, C Shaw; A Craig, T Doyle, A Clarke (0-2); C Boyle (0-1), S Clavin (0-1); N O’Brien (0-6, 5f, 1 ‘65), D McNicholas (0-2), J Boyle; D Clinton, N Mitchell, C Doyle (0-3, 1f).

Subs: J Coll (0-2) for Clinton (27 mins), K Regan for Craig (46 mins), A Cox (0-1) for C Boyle (52 mins), B Doyle for Egerton (61 mins), S Williams for J Boyle (61 mins), E Ahearn for O’Brien (65 mins).

Limerick: N Quaid; J Boylan, R English (0-1), B Nash; B O’Grady (0-1), R Connolly, K Hayes (1-1); R Hanley, D O’Donovan; T Morrissey (0-3), P Casey (0-2), C Boylan (0-1); A Gillane (0-8, 5f, 1 ‘65), S Flanagan (0-4), G Mulcahy (0-1).

Subs: A Breen for Flanagan (half-time), P Ryan (1-0) for Mulcahy (49 mins), W O’Donovan for Hanley (49 mins), G Hegarty (0-1) for Morrissey (57 mins), B Murphy (0-3, 2f) for Gillane (61 mins), D O’Connell (1-0) for Casey (61 mins), D Morrissey for Hayes (62 mins).

Referee: C Mooney (Dublin).

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