By Mike Fitzpatrick
Limerick 1-19, Westmeath 1-16
Limerick, the former champs, are out for glory this season. The way they see it apparently, is that the Senior Hurling title is merely on loan over at the Tipperary headquarters. Having opened the season with a worrying draw versus Offaly, the boys in green are starting to come into the form we’re more accustomed to seeing them in.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, coming up against Tom Nugent’s dark horses, and easy it was not. A highly spirited display from Westmeath almost gave them the day against their more fancied opponents. In a thrilling contest that saw both sides come perilously close to snatching victory, it was Limerick who grabbed the all-important championship points from their rivals Sunday at Gaelic Park.
Westmeath took an early lead thanks to some fine scoring from Damian Cleere, who proceeded to have an outstanding game in among the Westmeath forward line. It was Cleere’s accuracy in front of the sticks that led Westmeath into a three-point lead early in the game. Limerick, however, took time to settle, but once they did, it was green all the way. Fighting back immediately, Limerick were back in the game thanks to Dave Simms firing on all cylinders up front. As the halftime whistle sounded, it was Limerick who held the three-point advantage.
A penalty from James Butler after the break, gave Limerick a further lead, despite the best efforts of veteran Brian Daly and the on song Damian Cleere who added a goal to his already impressive tally. Limerick moved into a comfortable lead, and stayed their until the final 10 minutes, when Cleere’s goal brought them within a whisker of clinching at least a championship point to take home with them.
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Limerick: Finbarr Flood, John Riordan, Fames O’Donovan, Ross Donovan, Phil Wickham, Tom Simms, Michael O’Brien (0-1), James McSweeney (0-1), Eamonn Shields, William Joyce (0-1), Tadhg Callaghan (0-4), Dave Simms (0-8), James Butler (1-4). Subs: Morgan Burns, Ray Hourican.
Westmeath: Damian Fitzpatrick, Collie Reilly, Barry Smith, Alan Barry (0-1), Peter Dalton, Dermot Kenny, Declan Conroy, Kenneth Barry, Brian Daly (0-3), Paddy Corcoran, Damian Cleere (1-10), Brian McCabe (0-2), Lorcan Coll. Subs: Jimmy Hughes, Tommy Nolan.