Westmeath show resolve
WESTMEATH overcame a number of setbacks - a poor start to both halves and a player sent off - to beat Carlow in the Leinster senior hurling preliminary-round replay at Dr Cullen Park yesterday.
Carlow started as though they were going to blow their opponents away. With the wind behind them, they controlled the first 14 minutes, scoring 2-4 without reply, but their inconsistency meant they could not translate that 10-point lead into victory.
During that early purple pat6h Carlow's strategy was simple long deliveries by midfielder Pat Coady and wing back Martin Farrell were crashed, on the double, to the Westmeath net by full forward John Byrne.
They deployed the oldest gambit in the book with panache even though Westmeath manager George Leahy maintained that those goals could have been avoided had his defenders blocked and not competed, on the pull, with Byrne.
However, by half-time Westmeath had reduced the deficit to four points (2-6 to 2-2). Both Westmeath's first-half goals resulted from errors by goalkeeper T J Foley and Farrell.
Westmeath had to wait until the 16th minute to open their account and Leahy said: "Against better opposition we would not have got away with it," His counterpart, Moling Morrissey, was simply "sickened".
Yet another Everest loomed for Westmeath within a few minutes of the restart. Niall English and Byrne stretched Carlow's lead to six points. Again the response was heart-warming for the vi siting supporters in the 3,000 crowd. At one stage the Westmeath full back Peter Dalton was closer to the Carlow goal than full forward Pat Clancy.
But before Westmeath's crucial third goal was put away by Pat Connaughton the visitors encountered yet another setback with the sending-off of their industrious midfielder Ollie Devine 22 minutes into the second half following a tackle on Niall English.
Kilkenny referee John Guinan, criticised roundly in the Carlow dressing-room, could have been, a little busier with his notebook in terms of bookings and a little more considerate when Carlow's Sean Spruhan was dragged while en route for an equaliser in the closing minute.
From the time they went six points down in the third quarter Westmeath fairly bombarded the Carlow posts. Connaughton was unlucky twice and Barry Kennedy drove into the side netting. After Devine was sent to the line Westmeath decided to go without a full forward, leaving Carlow full back Niall Bambrick free. The Carlow man performed well before and after he had someone to police.
The most disappointed Carlow defender was dual player Johnny Nevin who hardly got a puck of the ball. His error on the left flank led to Connaughton's decisive goal in the 63rd minute.
"I have no complaints about the sending-off. You must abide by the rules," said George Leahy whose team face Meath in Castletowngeoghegan next Sunday. The prize is a Croke Park meeting with Leinster champions Offaly next month.