Tipperary 4-27 Westmeath 0-16
No shocks in Mullingar, not even a tremor, as Tipperary coasted to a 23-point victory over an outclassed Westmeath.
This top-flight mismatch was already over at the break, the visitors leading by 1-15 to 0-7 courtesy of a John McGrath goal late in the half.
They turned up the heat further on the restart with a brace of goals from Jason Forde, the first from a disputed penalty awarded under the cynical foul rule, before sub Mark Kehoe iced the cake in injury-time with a powerful fourth.
Tipperary now have six points from four unbeaten contests, and could seal a share of the Allianz League title by beating Waterford next week.
The one black mark for Liam Sheedy was a straight red card for wing-back Robert Byrne, sent off for striking Joey Boyle in apparent reaction to a sideling ball being flicked away.
The Tipp boss had no complaints with the decision afterwards, but the Westmeath line were more vocal during the game after referee Liam Gordon ‘sin-binned’ Darragh Egerton for a goal-preventing pull-down on Forde, even though there appeared to be a covering defender right in front of the felled Tipp No 15.
The reasons for pre-match trepidation in the Westmeath camp were perfectly understandable in the context of their league results to date. A competitive three-point defeat to an understrength Waterford would have offered far more solace if it wasn’t sandwiched by two maulings – by margins of 30 points to Galway and 33 to Cork.
Tipperary, by contrast, had followed up back-to-back draws with Limerick and Cork by clipping Galway’s wings last day out.
And the hosts must have feared the worst after Michael Breen (from the throw-in) and returning skipper Séamus Callanan both pointed inside 45 seconds.
The story of that opening quarter was one of Premier control partially spoiled by some criminally wasteful shooting. Thus, by the first water break, they led 0-7 to 0-4 having already accumulated nine wides.
But the reviving qualities of H2O also transferred into their shooting, and they quickly rattled off four unanswered points before Westmeath midfielder Robbie Grevile broke the sequence with his second point, a monster score from near his own ‘45’.
It offered only temporary respite, however, as Tipp defender Barry Heffernan replied with his second point.
Then, after Westmeath freetaker Killian Doyle succumbed to injury, the visitors effectively sealed the points via their opening goal in the 32nd minute.
Noel McGrath (with a clever flick) and Willie Connors (fizzing an assist across the goalmouth) were involved, providing John McGrath with a relatively routine chance that he was never going to miss.
The gap was out to ten, and this stretched to 11 at the break – 1-15 to 0-7 – after Forde capitalised on a sublime knock-down by Connors.
Scorers – Tipperary: J Forde 2-6 (1-0 pen, 4f, 1 ‘65’), J McGrath, M Kehoe 1-2 each, J Morris 0-3 (1f), B Heffernan, M Breen, P Cadell, A Flynn 0-2 each, S Callanan, B Maher, N McGrath, D McCormack, W Connors, P Flynn 0-1 each. Westmeath: C Doyle 0-5 (4f), K Doyle (3f), D Clinton 0-3, R Greville, D McNicholas (1f) 0-2 each, C Boyle 0-1.
Tipperary: Brian Hogan; C Barrett, P Maher, B McGrath; R Byrne, B Maher, B Heffernan; P Cadell, D McCormack; M Breen, N McGrath, S Callanan; J McGrath, J Forde, W Connors. Subs: A Flynn for McCormack (48), J Morris for Forde (48), P Flynn for N McGrath (53), C Morgan for Heffernan (53), J Quigley for Barrett (59), M Kehoe for J McGrath (59), J Meagher for B McGrath (61).
Westmeath: N Conaty; C Shaw, D Egerton, T Gallagher; A Craig, T Doyle, P Scally; C Boyle, R Greville; J Boyle, K Doyle, A Clarke; J Coll, N Mitchell, C Doyle. Subs: D McNicholas for K Doyle (inj 27), D Clinton for Coll (31), K Regan for Scally (55), A Cox for Clarke (58), S Clavin for Boyle (69), E Ahearn for C Doyle (69).