By Mike Fitzpatrick
Kilkenny 2-15, Westmeath 2-13
Five into four doesn’t go.
Therefore, with Tipperary’s and Limerick’s hurlers having already qualified for the semi finals, the remaining two places were contested among Waterford, Westmeath and Kilkenny, three sides with very little to choose between them.
Waterford were given a bye into the final four, and the last place was to go to the winner of the playoff between these two sides in this senior hurling play off.
Both sides had thrown up a couple of surprises this season in playing very well against some of the so called big guns, but at Gaelic Park, it was to be a battle of wits between two similar teams.
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Kilkenny went all out for victory in bringing inter county stars David Buggy, Charlie Carter and David Buggy over for the day, and it was arguably these three players that made the difference between the teams.
Vinnie Norton was in inspirational form for the Cats, as he has been all season, and it was some quick thinking by Norton that clinched victory in the dying minutes of the game.
A free sixty yards from goal for Westmeath, leading at the time, was taken short, rather than an ambitious effort at a point, or dropping the ball into the box, and Norton intercepted. He fired the ball forward for Carter, who shot home to give Kilkenny a one-point advantage.
It was a travesty for Westmeath, who’s players had performed well throughout, and with Johnathon O’Callaghan hitting a fine personal tally of 1-8, he was no doubt hugely disappointed that his efforts did not see Tom Nugent’s men in the final.
One must also consider the magnificent efforts of loyal Westmeath custodians such as Brian Daly and Brian McCabe, along with Jimmy Hughes, who have all served their club with distinction during the years.
Westmeath are out for another year, whereas Kilkenny face the daunting prospect of a tie versus favorites Limerick next week.
Don’t be surprised to see a number of top names out for that one.
Kilkenny: James Joyce, Dave Stafford, John Nolan, Sean Melly (0-2), Mark Kennedy, Vinnie Norton (0-1), Kevin Corbett, Richie Hogan (0-1), Brendan Ryan (1-0), James Fitzgerald (0-1), Charlie Carter (1-5), David Buggy (0-4) Subs: Liam Byrne (0-1), Tommy Brennan.
Westmeath: Darren Fitzpatrick, Barry Smith, Jimmy Hughes, Collie Reilly, Alan Browne (0-3), Brian McCabe, Dave Sweeney, Ken Barry, Alan Barry (0-1), Paddy Corcoran, Robbie Nolan, Johnathan O’Callaghan (1-8), Brian Daly. Subs: Dermot Kenny (0-1), Lorcan Coll (1-0), Cathal O’Shaughnessy, Joe Daly.