Limerick 1-24 Westmeath 0-18
Limerick overcame the handicap of playing over half the game with just 14 men to overcome a plucky Westmeath side by a flattering nine-point margin in Saturday’s All-Ireland senior hurling qualifier first round tie, played in front of 2,387 spectators in Mullingar.
Despite playing against the wind, Limerick raced into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead by the tenth minute, three of their scores - a free, a '65', and open play - coming from the stick of Shane Dowling. However, Westmeath rallied in style to edge ahead by 0-7 to 0-6 by the 23rd minute. Three minutes later, Graeme Mulcahy flicked the ball to the net at the end of Barry Nash's delivery, but Westmeath were undaunted and again took the game to the red-hot favourites.
Five minutes before the break, Seanie O'Brien was red-carded for a challenge on Cormac Boyle. A point on the stroke of 35 minutes from Westmeath's captain and centre half back, Aonghus Clarke, left them deservedly ahead at the interval by 0-13 to 1-9. The home goalkeeper, Paddy Maloney, produced two outstanding saves during the first half from Barry Nash and Paul Browne.
Eight minutes after the resumption, the sides were on level terms (1-11 to 0-14). After another fine save by Maloney - this time from Dowling - the latter player nudged the visitors ahead from the resultant ‘65’ and it was a lead that Limerick would never relinquish. However, Michael Ryan’s troops spurned a glorious chance to go in front in the 49th minute when Brendan Murtagh’s penalty stroke was wide of the target, after Darragh Egerton had been fouled.
Westmeath continued to plug away manfully and a superb sideline cut - his 11th point of the contest - from Niall O'Brien in the 65th minute left his side just four points in arrears (1-19 to 0-18). However, TJ Ryan's charges finished the stronger with five unanswered points, the best of them coming from Kevin Downes (his third of the tie) deep into added-time.
Limerick: N Quaid; S O'Brien, D Morrissey, R English; D Byrnes, G O'Mahony, P O'Brien; J Ryan (0-1), D O'Donovan (0-1); P Browne (0-1), S Dowling (0-14, nine frees, two '65's), B Nash; G Mulcahy (1-0), D Hannon (0-3), K Downes (0-3). Subs: G Hegarty for Nash (50 mins), R McCarthy for Morrissey (59 mins), D Reidy (0-1) for Hannon (60 mins), A Dempsey for Ryan (63 mins), T Condon for English (66 mins).
Westmeath: P Maloney; C Shaw, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig (0-1), A Clarke (0-2), A McGrath; C Boyle (0-1), E Price; A Devine (0-1), B Murtagh (0-2, one free), N O'Brien (0-11, seven frees, one '65', one lineball); N Mitchell, D McNicholas, D Egerton. Subs: R Greville for McNicholas (47 mins), L Varley for McGrath (48 mins), K Doyle for Mitchell (55 mins), G Greville for Shaw (69 mins).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).