Unbeaten Westmeath only just edge by Carlow in round-robin
Only a point separates the teams - Westmeath progress to play Galway in last eight
Westmeath will play Galway in the last eight of the Leinster championship. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Carlow hurlers bowed out of this year’s Leinster SHC at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday against a Westmeath team already through to a home provincial quarter-final meeting with Galway in two weeks’ time.
Seamus Murphy’s second minute goal indicated Carlow’s serious intent as they took the game to the Lake County from the throw-in and were clearly the better side in the opening half, when aided by the significant wind.
Westmeath, fielding five players new to senior championship hurling, adopted a possession game which at times broke down as they were hustled and harried by a Carlow team right up for the game despite the fact that they were already condemned to Christy Ring championship hurling for 2017 following defeats to Kerry and Offaly.
With James Doyle prominent in midfield Carlow picked off some fine scores. But Westmeath’s containment game did succeed in that Carlow were only two points to the good at half time (1-9 to 0-10). Niall O’Brien, nominally left full forward for Westmeath, roamed outfield to good effect and picked off some fine points, while the defence was well anchored by the game’s outstanding player, Aonghus Clarke at centre back.
Westmeath came close to a goal in the opening minute of the new half when danger man Brendan Murtagh latched on to the ball just to the left of the Carlow goal and his shot across the Carlow ‘keeper Dean Grennan hit the foot of the post and came back into play, the movement ending with a well-taken point from right full forward Liam Varley.
The game continued to be very much score for score and played at genuine championship pace as Carlow maintained their challenge and their lead. But eventually, aided by the elements Westmeath did draw level in the 54th minute through a Niall O’Brien point. Shortly after Killian Doyle put his side in front for the first time with a point from play (0-16 to 1-12).
Westmeath took late control to establish a four point lead due primarily to a flurry of points from Murtagh, who had been having a relatively quiet time at full forward but blossomed when moved outfield.
Carlow scored a late consolation goal from midfielder Conor Lawlor but the visitors hung on for victory - although few would have quibbled if the home side had at least forced a draw.
In the final minutes Carlow centre back Richard Coady was sent off on a second yellow card.
Westmeath: S McGovern; S Power, A McGrath, M Heeney; A Craig, A Clarke (0-2), G Greville; D Egerton, A Devine; N Mitchell (0-1), D McNicholas (0-3), R Greville (0-2); L Varley (0-1), B Murtagh (0-3), N O’Brien (0-8, 0-5 frees). Subs: K Doyle (0-2) for McNicholas (h/t); W Casserly for Heeney (47); J Galvin for Devin (51).
Carlow: D Grennan; G Coady, M Ryan, A Corcoran; R Kelly, R Coady, S Whelan; J Doyle (0-2), C Lawlor (1-1); Seán Murphy (0-3), K McDonald, J M Nolan (0-2); D Murphy (0-6, 0-3 frees), Seamus Murphy (1-1), R Smithers.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).