Cork had to work very hard to defeat a very plucky Westmeath side by a four-point margin in very difficult conditions for hurling in Mullingar.
espite playing with the aid of a strong wind and opening the scoring via Luke Meade after a mere 18 seconds, Cork never got into their stride in the first half. Westmeath equalised when Derek McNicholas pointed, but a neat brace of points from Conor Lehane (who had to retire soon afterwards due to injury) and four successful placed balls from Patrick Horgan (three frees and a ‘65’) had the Rebel County lads ahead by 0-7 to 0-1 with 20 minutes elapsed.
Westmeath came into the game at that stage and four unanswered points lifted the home supporters. The scores came courtesy of Allan Devine (three – the second of them from play), and Joey Boyle. Devine should have halved the deficit in added-time, but he was wide from what looked like a routine free. A great sideline cut by Tim O'Mahony rounded off first-half scoring, leaving Cork ahead by 0-08 to 0-05 at the interval.
Conditions deteriorated on the change of ends as the rain came down in torrents. A foul on Horgan just 30 seconds after play resumed gave the same player a chance from the penalty spot, and his rasping shot gave Aaron McHugh no chance. However, this was cancelled out within two minutes when a Devine 65 went all the way to the back of the Cork net. A great point from McNicholas ensued and the home fans were now in full voice.
In the 43rd minute, a skirmish involving both sides ended with Damien Cahalane being red-carded and Joey Boyle also dismissed after picking up a second yellow. Westmeath were well in contention, but a fortuitous goal from Bill Cooper in the 55th minute gave the visitors a little breathing space, the centre half back's innocuous shot from 45 meters squirming through McHugh's hand.
The Lake County men continued to plug away, with sub Darragh Clinton doing well in attack, and a Devine free and a great long-range point from play by Aonghus Clarke brought the deficit back to a goal (2-10 to 1-10) with 59 minutes elapsed. However, just past the hour mark, Seamus Harnedy was fouled as he headed goalward, and Horgan again made no mistake with a superbly struck penalty to effectively wrap up the points.
Cork: P Horgan 2-8 (2-0pens, 7fs, 1‘65’), B Cooper 1-0, C Lehane 0-2, T O’Mahony (s/l), L Meade 0-1 each.
Westmeath: A Devine 1-8 (1-0‘65’, 7fs), D Clinton, D McNicholas 0-2 each, A Clarke, J Boyle 0-1 each.
Cork: P Collins 6; S O’Leary-Hayes 6, E Cadogan 7, C Spillane 6; T O’Mahony 7, B Cooper 7, D Cahalane 5; C O’Leary 6, L Meade 7; A Walsh 6, S Harnedy 6, C Lehane 6; D Dalton 6, P Horgan 8, J O’Connor 6. Subs: S Twomey 5 for Lehane (inj., 12), R Downey 6 for Twomey (49), N O’Leary 6 for Walsh (52), B Turnbull 6 for O’Connor (60).
Westmeath: A McHugh 6; C Shaw 5, T Doyle 6, A Ennis 6; A Craig 7, A Clarke 8, L Varley 6; C Boyle 7, E Price 6; J Boyle 6, D McNicholas 6, R Greville 6; N Mitchell 5, A Devine 7, C Doyle 6. Subs: D Clinton 7 for Mitchell (45), K Doyle 6 for C Doyle (52), A Cox 6 for Shaw (55), S McGovern 6 for Greville (57), B Doyle n/r for Ennis (65).
Referee: L Gordon (Galway).