Westmeath shock Offaly in Leinster SHC Round Robin
LEINSTER SHC ROUND ROBIN
Westmeath 2-22 Offaly 1-11
Kevin Egan reports from Cusack Park
The 2016 hurling championships opened in remarkable fashion in Mullingar this afternoon when Division 2A champions Westmeath recorded a landslide win over Offaly at TEG Cusack Park, rocking the Faithful County with a devastating display that was fully worthy of their double score victory.
Historically Offaly and Westmeath have operated in different spheres since their last championship meeting in 1976 but it was the Lake County who looked like the elite county throughout the seventy minutes of action today, as they tore Offaly apart with an intelligent and high tempo brand of hurling that completely shut down Offaly’s attack while still creating plenty of scoring opportunities of their own.
An astute running game built around the energy of Eoin Price, Cormac Boyle and Robbie Greville in the middle third bore a rich crop of fruit as they created plenty of space around the Offaly 65m line, though scores at either end were comparatively scarce in the first half.
A spectacular Seán Ryan point gave Offaly the lead by the odd point in three after seven minutes but a stunning goal from Derek McNicholas, assisted by a neat reverse pass from Liam Varley, gave Westmeath that they never looked like losing for the remainder of the half.
Price, Niall O’Brien and Alan Devine tacked on further points to stretch the lead even further while Devine argued strongly that Westmeath should have had a second goal when a long range free was batted down and then swept off the line by James Dempsey, causing the umpires at the town end of the ground to exchange glances before keeping their arms down by their sides.
Offaly were unable to take advantage of this reprieve and Westmeath pushed the lead out to six before substitute Killian Kiely gave his side a glimmer of hope with a stunning run and finish from close range just before the break.
It was to no avail however as Westmeath produced their best hurling of the contest in the five minutes after half time, doubling their lead with an array of sumptuous scores. Liam Varley delivered the pick of the bunch with an immaculate score from out on the left wing, while the sum total of Offaly’s scoring in the third quarter of the tie was a close range free from Joe Bergin.
A close range Paddy Murphy goal and a Seán Ryan point cut the gap back to single figures again but by now Westmeath were cruising and with Offaly chasing the game, Eoin Price was able to run riot at full forward.
He had acres of space to attack and he exploited it to the full, picking off several points before adding a final exclamation point score, a blasted goal from fifteen metres after he collected a lateral pass and shook off his marker with a neat turn.
Scores flowed freely despite the accumulation of ten wides by the men in maroon, while Offaly chased goals but found themselves utterly unable to pass the imperious Tommy Doyle at the edge of the home square.
Westmeath will now make the long trip to Kerry for next Saturday’s game in high spirits, while the fourteen point margin means that Offaly must not only regroup for their clash with Carlow next week, they must also look at addressing their scoring difference or else face a situation where progression to the quarter finals of the Leinster championship could be out of their own hands by the time Kerry come to visit on the 22nd of May.
Westmeath Scorers: E Price 1-5, N O’Brien 0-7 (0-5f), D McNicholas 1-2, C Boyle 0-3, L Varley 0-2, D Egerton, A Devine & D Clinton 0-1 each.
Offaly Scorers: P Murphy 1-1, S Dooley 0-3f, S Ryan, S Kinsella & K Kiely 0-2 each, J Bergin 0-1f.
WESTMEATH: P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, A Clarke, G Greville; C Boyle, R Greville; A Devine, N O'Brien, E Price; L Varley, D McNicholas, D Egerton.
Subs: D Clinton for Varley (60), N Mitchell for Devine (62), B Murtagh for Egerton (67), A McGrath for G Greville (69), J Galvin for Boyle (70+1)
*OFFALY: * J Dempsey; D Mooney, C McDonald, P Rigney; S Ryan, D Kelleher, P Camon; P Murphy, S Kinsella; C Egan, S Dooley, J Mulrooney; K Connolly, J Bergin, B Conneely.
*Subs: *C Kiely for Mulrooney (27), S Cleary for Conneely (34), P Guinan for Dooley (HT), D Shortt for Kelleher (52), D King for Connolly (52), Connolly for Ryan (60).
*Referee: *Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)