Joe McDonagh Cup: Westmeath finish strong in Carlow
WESTMEATH 0-23 CARLOW 0-18
Kevin Egan at Netwatch Cullen Park
Westmeath hurlers came late to strike the last six points in succession at Netwatch Cullen Park in Carlow this afternoon, thus securing their first win of the year and pole position in the race for a final spot in the Joe McDonagh Cup.
A strong contribution off the bench and a greater spread of scorers were key factors for the Lake County, who were marginally the sharper side throughout the afternoon but struggled to shake off Carlow due to their inaccuracy in front of the posts. 17 wides in total were registered by the midlanders, including nine in the first half when they had the aid of the breeze and still went in level at the break, 0-12 each.
A free from Niall O’Brien from his own 45m line illustrated the strength of the wind, but it also blew across the ground from the stand side of the field and players at both ends found it difficult to manage. Niall Mitchell was the main threat in the Westmeath attack, scoring one excellent point himself but also winning frees and bringing his colleagues into the game.
Carlow were heavily dependent on Chris Nolan for scores, but they had the advantage of controlling the puckout, particularly their own on the right hand side of the field, where they set up numerous opportunities.
The home side would have been the happier side at the break but they struggled to push on after half-time with Westmeath’s back division, particularly their full back line, in complete control. Westmeath moved into a two point lead, two scores from play from Chris Nolan – capitalising on misplaced Westmeath passes – cancelled that out, and by the second half water break it was impossible to pick a winner.
Carlow took their first lead of the game in the 58th minute but they continued to be completely reliant on Nolan, with no other player finding the target. Westmeath lacked patience at times and were lucky to equalise that score through Alan Cox when they originally tried to engineer a goal chance where none existed, but Cox’s score turned out to be the first of several key interventions from their subs.
Ex-Galway player Davy Glennon won a vital free which Killian Doyle converted to edge Westmeath back in front, and after another excellent score from Mitchell, Josh Coll and Darragh Clinton were able to snap neat scores over the crossbar to seal the victory and add to the winning margin, which could yet be crucial in the event of a narrow Kildare win at TEG Cusack Park next week.
Scorers for Westmeath: Niall O’Brien and Killian Doyle 0-6 (0-4f) each, Joey Boyle 0-3, Niall Mitchell & Ciarán Doyle 0-2 each, Aonghus Clarke, Alan Cox, Josh Coll & Darragh Clinton 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: Chris Nolan 0-11 (0-7f), Jon Nolan 0-3, Ted Joyce 0-2, John Michael Nolan & David English 0-1 each.
Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Gallagher, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Tommy Doyle, Aonghus Clarke; Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville; Joey Boyle, Niall O’Brien, Derek McNicholas; Niall Mitchell, Ciarán Doyle, Killian Doyle.
Subs: Shane Clavin for Greville (30), Davy Glennon for McNicholas (half-time), Josh Coll for Clarke (48), Darragh Clinton for O’Brien (60), Alan Cox for Boyle (62).
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Dion Wall, Paul Doyle, Tony Lawlor; Ger Coady, James Doyle, Michael Doyle; Richard Coady, David English; Jon Nolan, Chris Nolan, Kevin McDonald; Ted Joyce, John Michael Nolan, Aaron Amond.
Subs: Jack Kavanagh for R Coady (57), Gary Lawlor for Amond (59), Craig Wall for G Coady (66), Jack McCullagh for JM Nolan (69), Paul Coady for Joyce (70+1).
Referee: Rory McGann (Antrim)