By Mike Fitzpatrick
Offaly 3-9, Westmeath 3-16
Senior hurling in New York this year has proven to be one of the most unpredictable leagues concerning who qualifies and who doesn’t. The only sides to have gone some way in retaining form have been Limerick and Tipperary — two sides that have provided the Gaelic Park faithful with fine exhibitionist displays of hurling displays this year. The rest of the teams have provided us with an amazing dogfight for the remaining positions in the race for the playoffs.
Offaly suffered a number of setbacks early in the season, and though putting up some spirited displays, most notably in their draw with rivals Clare, still clearly had to win this game Sunday at Gaelic Park to stand a chance of making the final four.
Westmeath, suffered at the hands of Tipperary a couple of weeks back, and their hopes had begun to fade. Their tie versus kingpins Limerick next week at Gaelic Park will perhaps decide their fate concerning their further participation in this years championship, but then they will also have to hope other results concerning their rivals go the right way for them.
Peering at Westmeath’s lineup, one immediately noticed the exclusion of inspirational forward John McDonald, who has been suspended due to a sending off earlier in the season. They did, however, include David Cuddy. Cuddy went on to produce an excellent personal display for Westmeath, and hit an amazing 3-13 of his side’s eventual total. Cuddy could seemingly do no wrong, with practically all of his first-half efforts hitting the target
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Offaly fought back with points from James Healion, Jim Miller, James Mitchell and a crucial goal from David Murray. Cuddy, though, simply could not be stopped, each time he got the ball it seemed as if another Westmeath score was on the cards. And more often than not, that seemed to be the case. Holding a five-point lead going into the break, Westmeath looked good for victory.
An improved performance from Offaly in the second period witnessed them hitting goals from Sean Nolan and Michael O’Brien to bring themselves back into the tie a little, but Westmeath simply continued where they left off. Veteran Brian Daly and Paddy Corcoran hit a point apiece for Dessie Costello’s men. Cuddy, too, simply commenced where he left off and continued to hit scores, giving one of the most prolific displays by a hurling forward seen in recent times at Gaelic Park. Westmeath are still in with a shout, and if they can provide another attacking display next week versus Limerick, then who knows what’ll happen.
Offaly: Jimmy Beatty, Sean Nolan (1-0), John Hyland, Pat Leavy, Enda Condron, John Hanlon, Colm Scanlon (0-1), Jim Miller (0-2), Michael O’Brien (1-1), Mark Daffy (0-1), David Murray (1-1), James Mitchell (0-1), James Healion (0-2).
Westmeath: Mark Briody, Robbie Kennedy, Collie Reilly, Jimmy Hughes, Paul Cuddy, Damian Gavin, Paddy Corcoran (0-1), Peter Dalton (0-1), Brian Daly (0-1), David Cuddy (3-13), Joe Daly, Ronan Mulligan, Philip Nolan. Sub: Brendan Kirby.