By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tipperary 6-21, Westmeath 0-8
Some of the Gaelic Park faithful figured there might have been a shock on the cards for this senior hurling game. With Westmeath proving to be the dark horses in this year’s championship, some observers felt that they could well have sneaked a victory in this game. However, the only shock was the ease with which Tipperary dispatched their rivals.
Westmeath, a team still well on course for the latter stages of the season, were simply outplayed from the moment the first whistle was blown by referee JoJo O’Sullivan. Despite a couple of well-taken points in the early stages by Westmeath’s Brian Daly, Tipp took mere minutes to regroup, and after that it was Tipp all the way.
Earlier in the season, we had witnessed these two sides come face to face in the Brendan Keane knockout competition, and it was Westmeath who triumphed on that occasion with a splendid display.
Tipperary sought revenge. Introducing such cross Atlantic stars as Mickey Bevans and Mark Keeshan certainly paid massive dividends as Tipp took a stranglehold upon the game that they never once looked like relinquishing.
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With practically a full team of subs on the bench waiting to come into the fray, Tipp proved that they are really serious about retaining the title they won in such style last year.
Opening with some early scores from Keeshan and Bevans, Westmeath were on the ropes, and despite some courageous play from Daly and Alan Barry, the lads in maroon faced difficulty in preventing this Tipp juggernaut from surging forward and racking up the scores.
Westmeath currently lie in a healthy fourth position in the senior hurling table, having played a game less than rivals Offaly and Clare, so their season is still very much alive. Tom Nugent’s men are certainly not used to defeats of this scale, and will certainly look for revenge when they face up to the other teams in the division.
The game itself, however, as the scoreline suggests, was very much a one sided affair, with Westmeath attempting to fight back, but the sheer firepower Tipp had both on the field and on the sideline proved too much. To be in a position where they could bring on subs such as John Slattery, Tony O’Brien and Donal Cummins says a lot for the club, especially when the former two scored a goal each.
Westmeath will surely climb back from this numbing loss, and you can be sure that the other sides they’ve yet to face in the league will feel a Westmeath backlash when they come face to face with them in the coming weeks.
Tipperary: Ian Duggan, Brian Flannery, Declan O’Meara, Alan Slattery (0-1), Owen Cummins, Tomas Keane (0-2), John Madden, Ray Duggan (0-2), Mickey Bevans (1-5), Mark Keeshan (0-4), Pádraig Delaney (1-1), Kevin Kennedy (1-4), Paul Hogan (1-2). Subs: John Slattery (1-0), Donal Cummins, Jimmy Lyons, Tony O’Brien (1-0).
Westmeath: Darren Fitzgerald, Barry Smith, Cathal O’Shaughnessy, Collie Reilly, Peter Dalton, Jimmy Hughes, Dermot Kenny, Alan Barry (0-1), Brian Daly (0-4), Lorcan Coll (0-1), Ken Barry (0-2), Joe Daly, Paddy Corcoran.