Martin praises Gath after brace on Faithful debut
Walsh cup: Offaly 2-15 Westmeath 1-16
Kevin Martin's reign as Offaly hurling manager got off to a winning start on Saturday when his youthful and experimental side edged out Westmeath by two points.
A contribution of 2-2 from debutant Colm Gath proved decisive as Martin saw his side command a seven-point half-time lead before Westmeath roared back into life in the second half.
"We knew it was going to be tough. We started with four of six forwards under 21 and we had a few other new faces as well. While we could have pushed on, we didn't and we only scored 1-3 in the second half which isn't good enough at this level so we have plenty to work on but happy enough with the win.
"We scored 1-10 out of 1-12 from play in the first half. We have been trying to hit high scores in the last few challenge games and we have been doing it. The ground is very heavy for both teams. There was a lot of bunching and hard hitting but it is the time of year", explained the Offaly boss.
The opening half was a tight contest for the majority but the Offaly men powered ahead in the final five minutes of the half to fire 1-4 without reply. Gath fired in the first of his two goals as Offaly looked to be sitting pretty at half-time leading 1-12 to 0-8.
Gath's performance was a real positive for Martin who also confirmed that he will ring the changes for when the sides meet again next weekend.
"Colm has been showing great promise in training and challenge matches. He did very well and he has something to offer. There could be maybe 10 changes for the next day. That is what the Walsh Cup is for, to get a look at different players. Next weekend is going to be as tough. Every win is good for confidence."
Alan Devine got a flick on a long ball in from Robbie Greville to find the net for Westmeath on 39 minutes to spark Michael Ryan's charges into life.
By the 47th minute, Offaly only led by a point - 1-13 to 1-12 - but a minute later Gath got his second goal after Colin Egan played him in.
Offaly maintained a cushion from then and although Ciaran Doyle had a close range free with the last puck of the game, he drove it over the bar to narrow the gap to two, meaning a three-point win for Westmeath next weekend will see them through.
Afterwards Ryan lamented the last five minutes of the first half that saw his team fall seven points behind but was delighted with the character shown by his players.
"We had a bad five minutes before half-time when we conceded a goal and three points. That gave us a mountain to climb but I was delighted with the response by our fellas after half-time.
"We are delighted with what we got today. We got a good performance, we worked hard and never died. We fought into the game when it looked to be slipping away from us and played some nice hurling along the way.
"Our first league game is against Carlow down in Carlow and that will be a test for us. Carlow are a good side and a good physical side like Offaly so today was good preparation."
Scorers - Offaly:C Gath 2-2, D Egan 0-5 (0-3 fs), C Cleary 0-3, C Egan, L Langton 0-2 each, O Kelly 0-1. Westmeath: A Devine 1-6 (0-5 fs and 0-1 '65'), K Doyle, N Mitchell, J Galvin and C Doyle (0-1f) 0-2 each, D McNicholas and D Egerton 0-1 each.
Offaly - C Clancy; P Rigney, S Gardiner, B Conneely; D Shortt, D Doughan, P Camon; C Molloy, D Egan; C Gath, C Egan, C Cleary; E Cahill, L Langton, O Kelly: Subs: S Dooley (for E Cahill H/T), C Mahon (for Cleary 44m), J Quinn (for P Camon 47m), T Geraghty (for J Quinn inj 55m), D O'Toole (for P Rigney 58m).
WESTMEATH - P Carroll; S Power, L Varley, G Greville; A Craig, P Greville, D McNicholas; R Greville, n Mitchell; J Gilligan, K Doyle, D Egerton; A Devine, C Doyle, J Galvin. Subs: S Clavin (for K Doyle 51m), N Conaty (for J Galvin 58m), P Maxwell (for A Devine 64m).
Ref- K Brady (Louth)