All Ireland SHC Qualifier: Champions Tipperary advance
All Ireland SHC Qualifiers Round 1
TIPPERARY 2-18 WESTMEATH 0-15
By Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium
Champions Tipperary flattered to deceive as they struggled through to Round 2 of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers.
Westmeath produced a gritty performance to keep the losing margin to single figures – as Tipp failed to raise a gallop at Semple Stadium.
Westmeath’s footballers lost by 31 points against Dublin last weekend, but their hurlers produced a display to be proud of in Thurles.
In the first ever Senior Hurling Championship clash between Tipp and Westmeath, the hosts ran out nine-point winners, but struggled for any real form in front of 6,893 spectators.
Tipp are in the hat for Monday morning’s round 2 qualifier draw, but they’ll have to improve significantly to trouble superior opposition next weekend.
With 17 minutes of normal time remaining, Westmeath were just three points behind, 0-12 to 1-12, when Cormac Boyle forced a brilliant save from Tipp’s championship debutant and netminder Daragh Mooney.
A goal then would have levelled matters, but Tipp, playing with a second half breeze, swept to the other end of the field and sub Jason Forde pointed.
From there, they wouldn’t be caught and were eleven points clear before Westmeath’s leading scorer, Allan Devine, scored two points deep in stoppage time to keep the margin between the sides at full-time in single figures.
Tipp registered 16 wides over the course of the game and also suffered a real blow when Niall O’Meara was stretchered off in the second half with an ankle injury, while ace marksman Seamus Callanan was subbed off.
Showing six changes from the that started the Munster quarter-final defeat to Cork, Tipp never got going and only a late goal from sub John McGrath added some gloss to the scoreline.
Tipp led by just four points – 1-10 to 0-9 – at the end of a desperately poor first half.
John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer netted for the hosts in the 15th minute, but it was one of the rare highlights of a dreadful opening period from the All-Ireland champions.
The game was 40 seconds old and Westmeath, playing with a first half breeze, had a two-point lead, Killian Doyle and Niall O’Brien raising white flags.
Tipp took over from there and were nine points clear, 1-9 to 0-4, by the 19th minute.
They could have goaled as early as the third minute, but Paddy Carroll saved well at his near post from Michael Breen, before O’Dwyer found a way past him later in the half.
After moving into that big lead, the Premier County dozed off and went 18 minutes without a score, as Westmeath hit five on the spin.
That purple patch from the Lake County narrowed the gap to just three points – 0-9 to 1-9 – before Ronan Maher stopped the Tipp rot in the second minute of stoppage time, firing over the final score of the half from distance.
Scorers for Tipperary: John O’Dwyer 1-3 (1f), Seamus Callanan 0-5 (4fs, 165), John McGrath 1-1, Noel McGrath, Niall O’Meara & Jason Forde 0-2 each, Ronan Maher, Brendan Maher and Patrick Maher 0-1 each.
*Scorers for Westmeath: *Allan Devine 0-6 (4fs), Paul Greville (1f) and Killian Doyle 0-2 each, Aonghus Clarke, Robbie Greville, Derek McNicholas, Niall O’Brien and Cormac Boyle 0-1 each.
*TIPPERARY: *Daragh Mooney; James Barry, Tomás Hamill, Donagh Maher; Joe O’Dwyer, Ronan Maher, Pádraic Maher; Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath; Dan McCormack, Patrick Maher, Michael Breen; John O’Dwyer, Seamus Callanan, Niall O’Meara.
*SUBS: *Jason Forde for Breen (44), John McGrath for Callanan (45), Aidan McCormack for O’Meara (60), Steven O’Brien for Patrick Maher (64) Tom Fox for Pádraic Maher (68).
*WESTMEATH: *Paddy Carroll; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Aaron Craig, Paul Greville, Liam Varley; Aonghus Clarke, Robbie Greville; Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle, Derek McNicholas; Allan Devine, Niall Mitchell, Niall O’Brien.
*Subs: *Cormac Boyle for J Boyle (21), Brendan Murtagh for McNicholas (64), Darragh Egerton for O’Brien (66), Jack Galvin for C Boyle (69), Conor Shaw for Varley (70+1).
*REFEREE: *Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).