By Mike Fitzpatrick
Senior hurling in New York was certainly a tangled web coming into this game. All kinds of combinations and permutations could have arisen depending upon the outcome of this game at Gaelic Park. As it happened, Waterford only needed a draw to make it to the playoffs, where they will accompany Kilkenny, Limerick and Tipperary into the semi finals.
Westmeath, however, upset the apple cart by winning a game they were not generally expected to, so now they had to go alongside Waterford and Kilkenny into a three way draw to see who would join the big guns of Limerick and Tipp in the final four. But after the game, names were pulled from the hat and Waterford were given a bye into the semis where they will face Tipperary. Westmeath will play Kilkenny in a playoff game for the rights to partake in the semi final versus Limerick.
Westmeath boss Tom Nugent had the luxury of inter county stars Mark Landers, Kevin Murray, both Cork, and Dublin’s Shane Martin over for the weekend. The gamble paid huge dividends, as all three played their part in a fine victory for the maroon side.
Waterford have performed their own near miracles this year. As we’ve mentioned before, the Decies had suffered from a serious exodus of players leaving for Ireland and other clubs before the season, which had many suggesting that the club was in dire trouble. That has not turned out to be the case however.
Waterford have played some magnificent hurling and certainly deserve their place in the final four.
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The game itself was a hotly contested fight for glory, Westmeath were impressive in their attacks, with Kevin Murray having a fine game in front of goal.
Waterford should really have scored more though, losing a game by four points that they could certainly have gained more from had they been accurate in their free taking.
They face a daunting prospect versus Tipperary in the semis, a team which many feel will either win the title, or come extremely close to it.
Westmeath deserved their victory, and manager Tom Nugent will have gone home from Gaelic Park a happy man on Sunday. Here’s to the semi finals.
Westmeath: Darren Fitzpatrick, Barry Smith, Jimmy Hughes, Brian McCabe, Mark Landers, Collie Reilly, Shane Martin (1-1), Mark Landers, Robbie Nolan, Ken Barry, Paddy Corcoran (0-2), Alan Barry, Kevin Murray (2-7)
Waterford: Noel Kelly, Tom Morrissey, James O’Connor, Tomas Maher, Dave Ryan (0-2), Rory Hussey, Dan Shanahan (0-2), , Kevin Martin, Fintan O’Shea (0-1), Tim McCarthy (2-2), Sean Cotter, Ken Geary (0-1). Sub: Cormac Murray (0-1).