Allianz HL D1: Limerick triumph in the midlands
Allianz Hurling League Division One Group B
Limerick 1-27 Westmeath 1-15
By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park
Limerick were not flattered by their 12-point winning margin against a gallant Westmeath side in Mullingar this afternoon.
Westmeath sportingly gave the visitors a guard of honour on to the pitch. The Lake County had the aid of a very strong wind in the first half, but they seldom threatened the Limerick rearguard.
John Kiely's team dominated right from the first whistle. They had three points on the board in the opening five minutes via Diarmaid Byrnes (a monster free), Tom Morrissey - who replaced Gearóid Hegarty from the selected team - and Peter Casey. They led 0-4 to 0-1 when Conor Boylan found the net in the 12th minute after fine approach work by Casey.
Within a minute, Noel Conaty did well to keep out a Seamus Flanagan rasper, with Boylan firing the sliotar wide from the rebound. In Killian Doyle's absence, Jack Gillen was on free-taking duty for Joe Fortune's troops, but he only managed one successful strike from a number of scoreable placed balls in the first half.
The home team had the gap down to six points (1-8 to 0-5) by the 25th minute, but the Liam MacCarthy Cup holders fired over six more points by the interval, including two each from Morrissey and the outstanding Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, to lead from 1-14 to 0-5 at half-time.
On the change of ends, sub Niall O'Brien and Morrissey traded points from early frees. The Treaty men added three more points in the ensuing five minutes, but they were denied a second goal when Conaty saved from skipper William O'Donoghue in the 39th minute.
Conaty again did well from a Casey shot at the expense of a '65' which Byrnes converted. Without having to overly exert themselves, Limerick kept the scoreboard ticking over but they were dealt a blow just past the hour mark when Colin Coughlan was black-carded after a foul on Westmeath sub Eoin Keyes. O'Neill superbly dispatched the resultant penalty past Jamie Power.
This gave the home team a lift and they gave as good as they got in the closing stages. One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon came when Aaron Gillane was introduced in the 63rd minute and the Patrickswell star did not disappoint, scoring a delightful point near the end.
Keyes almost doubled Westmeath's goal tally in the dying moments, Power doing well to deflect the ball out for a '65' which O'Brien - whose introduction greatly improved the Westmeath attack - converted.
Scorers for Limerick: T Morrissey 0-9 (4fs), D Ó Dálaigh 0-5, P Casey 0-3, C Boylan 1-0, D Byrnes (1f, 1 65), C O'Neill, S Flanagan 0-2 each, B Murphy, W O'Donoghue, A Gillane, A O'Connor (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: N O'Brien 1-6 (1-0 pen, 5fs, 1 65), K Regan 0-2, T Doyle, R Greville, S McGovern, J Boyle, J Gillen (f), C Doyle, D Clinton (sideline) 0-1 each.
Limerick: J Power; F O'Connor, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes, R Connolly, C Coughlan; B Murphy, W O'Donoghue; T Morrissey, C O'Neill, C Boylan; D Ó Dálaigh, S Flanagan, P Casey.
Subs: D O'Donovan for Murphy (blood, 31 to 39), M Casey for D Morrissey (52), O O'Reilly for Ó Dálaigh (52), M Quinlan for Byrnes (56), A Gillane for Flanagan (63), A O'Connor for T Morrissey (69).
Westmeath: N Conaty; D Egerton, T Doyle, C Shaw; A Craig, R Greville, J Galvin; S Clavin, S McGovern; J Boyle, C Doyle, K Regan; O McCabe, D Glennon, J Gillen.
Subs: N O'Brien for McCabe (inj., 14), J Bermingham for Clavin (HT), E Keyes for Gillen (52), G Greville for Craig (52), D Clinton for C Doyle (54), M Cunningham for R Greville (blood, 60 to 62).
Referee: C Cunning (Antrim).