Friday 15 December 2017

Champions drag themselves over Westmeath hurdle

Tipperary 2-18 Westmeath 0-15

Donagh Maher in action against Westmeath. Photo: Sportsfile
Donagh Maher in action against Westmeath. Photo: Sportsfile

Semple Stadium

Tipperary are still alive in championship 2017 - but they failed to lay down a significant marker against Westmeath at Semple Stadium.

In truth, this was a rank bad display from Michael Ryan's All-Ireland kingpins, who ran out nine-point winners in front of 6,893 spectators. They were up by just three points - 1-12 to 0-12 - when debutant goalkeeper Daragh Mooney was forced to pull off a fine 53rd-minute save to deny Cormac Boyle at the Killinan End, when a goal would have levelled matters for the gritty visitors.

Liam Varley of Westmeath in action against Dan McCormack of Tipperary during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Tipperary and Westmeath at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Liam Varley of Westmeath in action against Dan McCormack of Tipperary during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Tipperary and Westmeath at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Tipp did kick on from there to lead by 11 points, before two late Allan Devine scores kept Westmeath's losing margin to single figures, six days after their footballers suffered a 31-point mauling at the hands of Dublin.

A Tipp team showing six changes in personnel from their Munster quarter-final loss to Cork failed to function and there was an injury blow to contend with in the second half when Niall O'Meara was stretchered off with an ankle injury.

Ace marksman Seamus Callanan was subbed off after a poor display in the second half and error-ridden Tipp finished the game with 16 wides.

It was a dreadful first-half display from Tipperary but they still led at the break by four points - 1-10 to 0-9.

Tomas Hamill of Tipperary in action against Allan Devine of Westmeath during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Tipperary and Westmeath at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tomas Hamill of Tipperary in action against Allan Devine of Westmeath during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Tipperary and Westmeath at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Westmeath had two points on the board within the opening 40 seconds but Tipp recovered to lead by eight points, 1-9 to 0-4, by the 19th minute. They could have had an early goal too but Michael Breen, operating at wing-forward, forced a good save from Paddy Carroll.

But the hosts fell asleep after that, going 18 minutes without a score as spirited Westmeath hit five points without reply to narrow the gap to three.

In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, Ronan Maher stopped the rot for Tipperary with a long-range score, but they were sure to receive an interval rollicking from manager Ryan.

The sides were level three times inside the opening seven minutes before Tipp managed to put some daylight between themselves and the massive pre-match underdogs. The goal should have spurred Tipp on to greater heights (the pre-match handicap betting was 24 points) but they were sluggish and lacking in any real spark.

It was a well-taken goal from John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer in the 15th minute, nonetheless, as James Barry's long ball led to the breakthrough. Niall O'Meara fed O'Dwyer with the killer pass and the Killenaule man waltzed around Carroll before finding the net, with the Westmeath goalkeeper booked for his challenge on the Tipp forward.

There was never a feeling in Thurles that Westmeath could actually win the game but they did get close enough in the second half to send pulse levels racing a little.

Tipp boss Ryan looked on helplessly as his players struggled to produce anything of real note - although John McGrath came off the bench to score a late goal and add some gloss to the scoreboard.

Scorers - Tipperary: John O'Dwyer 1-3 (0-1f); S Callanan 0-5 (4f, 1 65); J McGrath 1-1; N McGrath, N O'Meara, J Forde 0-2 each; R Maher, B Maher, Patrick Maher 0-1 each. Westmeath: A Devine 0-6 (4f); P Greville (1f), K Doyle 0-2 each; A Clarke, R Greville, D McNicholas, N O'Brien, C Boyle 0-1 each.

Tipperary: D Mooney; J Barry, T Hamill, D Maher; Joe O'Dwyer, R Maher, Pádraic Maher; B Maher, N McGrath; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, M Breen; John O'Dwyer, S Callanan, N O'Meara. Subs: J Forde for Breen (44), J McGrath for Callanan (45), A McCormack for O'Meara (60), S O'Brien for Patrick Maher (64) T Fox for Pádraic Maher (68).

Westmeath - P Carroll; S Power, T Doyle, G Greville; A Craig, P Greville, L Varley; A Clarke, R Greville; J Boyle, K Doyle, D McNicholas; A Devine, N Mitchell, N O'Brien.

Subs: C Boyle for J Boyle (21), B Murtagh for McNicholas (64), D Egerton for O'Brien (66), J Galvin for C Boyle (69), C Shaw for Varley (70+1).

Referee: P O'Dwyer (Carlow).

 

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