Leinster SHC: Westmeath advance to knockout stages
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Round Robin
WESTMEATH 1-18 MEATH 0-19
By Kevin Egan at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar
Meath’s stay in the Leinster Round Robin series came to an end at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar when they failed to take advantage of an extra man and a supporting wind in the second half of a tense and entertaining contest, eventually falling just two points short to their hosts, who now advance to a Leinster Quarter Final clash with Offaly.
Westmeath, who topped the Round Robin table in 2016, came into this contest on the back of two consecutive defeats in this year’s competition, and after their loss to Kerry in their previous encounter, manager Michael Ryan stressed the importance of remaining disciplined.
In the closing stages Ryan’s team had to deal with a red card to Derek McNicholas, who was shown a straight red card following an altercation with Shane Brennan shortly before half time.
After a slow start, Westmeath had produced some excellent hurling during the second quarter and with Alan Devine in solid form from placed balls while Killian Doyle controlled the attack from centre forward, they started to rack up the points and put distance between the sides.
Points from James Kelly (twice) cut the lead right back in the aftermath of McNicholas’ dismissal however, leaving Westmeath with a slender 0-9 to 0-6 advantage at the interval.
With the breeze set to favour the Royal County, the stage was set for Martin Ennis’ men, but instead it was Westmeath who found their feet quickest after the break, before a brace of Stephen Clynch frees and a stunning solo score from Daragh Kelly reduced the gap to the bare minimum by the 50 minute mark.
However, if indiscipline has been Westmeath’s weak point in this series, defence has been their key strength, and while Meath rarely threatened Paddy Moloney’s goal – meaning that Westmeath have now conceded just one goal in their three championship starts – the home side looked far more likely to deliver a goal of their own.
Killian Doyle produced that killer blow in the 51st minute with a low strike inside the near post after he was well-found by an Aonghus Clarke handpass, and that inspired another scintillating burst of hurling from the men in maroon as they tacked on three more points to push seven clear.
Again Meath rallied, however, with Kelly leading the way from full back, and after firing over three points in succession, they could have got right back into the contest only for a superb block from Paul Greville to deny Adam Gannon.
That was to be the closest Meath got to the goal they badly needed and while two late frees from Seán Quigley brought them to within two, that wasn’t enough to save their status in the Leinster Championship, meaning that they will revert to Christy Ring competition in 2018.
Scorers for Westmeath: A Devine 0-9 (6fs), K Doyle 1-3, R Greville and A Clarke 0-2 each, D McNicholas and C Boyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for Meath: S Clynch 0-5 (3fs), A Gannon 0-4, K Keoghan, J Kelly, D Kelly (1f) and S Quigley (2fs) 0-2 each, M O’Sullivan and G McGowan 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, P Greville,C Shaw; A Clarke, G Greville; D McNicholas, K Doyle, C Boyle; A Devine, N Mitchell, R Greville.
Subs: N O’Brien for Gallagher (54), J Boyle for Mitchell (64), J Galvin for K Doyle (66), D Egerton for Shaw (70+2).
MEATH: S McGain; S Whitty, D Kelly, C Reilly; S Brennan, D Healy, K Keoghan; A Forde, S Geraghty; S Clynch, J Keena, K Keena; M O’Sullivan, N Heffernan, A Gannon.
Subs: J Kelly for K Keena (26), G McGowan for Heffernan (35+1), S Quigley for J Keena (57), C McCabe for O’Sullivan (59), P Kelly for Clynch (65).
REFEREE: Colum Cunning (Antrim).