Rebels hit 40-point mark to sharpen up for Kilkenny test
Cork 1-40 Westmeath 0-20
If Westmeath had been told beforehand that they would score 20 points, they'd at least have been entitled to think it would be interesting.
If they had been teed up that Patrick Horgan would only edge ahead of Killian Doyle as the game's top scorer with one of the last pucks from a free, they could surely have assumed that it would be close.
But it was neither as Cork routed them, posting 40 points, 35 from play, the first time such a milestone has been reached in a MacCarthy Cup championship match.
It was mere target practice ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final with Kilkenny in Croke Park next weekend, a place where they have not won since 2013, losing all three All-Ireland semi-finals in between.
Wrongs "We've a few wrongs to rectify," acknowledged manager John Meyler afterwards, directly addressing the question of their recent Croke Park hex. We were in a good position last year to Limerick and we lost it. We were in a good position against Waterford in 2017 and we lost it. So we need to address that."
They didn't hang about here. Westmeath set up with two sweepers, Aonghus Clarke and Eoin Price, manager Joe Quaid taking his cue from the corresponding game between Limerick and Carlow last year when the All-Ireland champions ran in quick goals to kill the game.
"We wanted to try and stay in the game for the first 10 or 15 minutes, not leak goals," Quaid said. But it was as broad as it was long and by the end of the first half they had reverted to a more conventional formation.
Cork's first touch, their power and their pace overwhelmed the home side. Alan Cadogan's rich vein of form continued with five first-half points sent over from a variety of angles and distances before Cork withdrew him at the break.
In all, four Cork players hit five points from play, Horgan, Seamus Harnedy and Shane Kingston matching Cadogan's contribution.
Naturally, Meyler wasn't of a mind to glance back, even with the dust barely settled on Cusack Park.
"We could have executed a few more goal chances but we didn't. I'm happy with the 40 points, I'm happy with the performance. It's 5pm, I know what's ahead of us in Croke Park. It's going to be massive intensity, massive competition against Kilkenny, who are wounded from losing to Wexford last Sunday."
Cork gave Westmeath the respect of their strongest possible team, Meyler identifying the requirement for his players to have a decent "blow-out." "Hoggie (Horgan) wants to play every game. (Anthony) Nash wants to play very game. Robbie O'Flynn came on there and played really well in the second half and scored a goal (1-4), so competition for places is massive."
They led by 0-24 to 0-9 at the break but met greater resistance in the second half with Tommy Doyle closing down Horgan well.
Eoin Price, one of the first-half sweepers, hit four points from long range, while Doyle, who had averaged 14 points in their McDonagh Cup campaign, kept up his standards here. But they really struggled to get puck-outs away.
Conquerors Quaid reflected on a decent season that brought Kehoe Cup and league honours before last weekend's McDonagh Cup final defeat to Laois but, even as their conquerors were beating Dublin, the Limerick man was bemoaning the plight of the development counties.
"It's paying lip service to the McDonagh teams to send them out seven days after a final. Basically, if they want to improve hurling with the second-tier counties, they need to get a Leinster Championship with two groups of four in it," he said.
"Carlow this year had three or four moral victories. They're still going back down. Waterford and Clare shipped bigger beatings with no consequences. What happens if Kerry win the McDonagh? They have to go out the following week and play a preliminary quarter-final and then they have to play the bottom team in Munster. It's stacked against development teams."
Scorers - Cork: P Horgan 0-10 (5f); R O'Flynn 1-4; A Cadogan, S Harnedy, S Kingston 0-5 each; C Lehane 0-4; D Fitzgibbon 0-3; B Cooper, T O'Mahony, J Coughlan, D Dalton 0-1 each. Westmeath: K Doyle 0-9 (5f); E Price 0-4; A Clarke 0-2; P Greville, R Greville, J Galvin, C Doyle, S Clavin 0-1 each.
Cork - A Nash 7; S McDonnell 8, E Cadogan 7, N O'Leary 8; C Joyce 7, M Ellis 7, M Coleman 7; B Cooper 7, T O'Mahony 7; C Lehane 8, D Fitzgibbon 7, S Kingston 8; A Cadogan 8, P Horgan 8, S Harnedy 8. Subs: Robbie O'Flynn 8 for Cooper (h-t), J Coughlan 6 for A Cadogan (h-t), D Cahalane 7 for Coleman (h-t), D Dalton 7 for Harnedy (45).
Westmeath - C Lynch 5; G Greville 6, T Doyle 7, D Egerton 6; L Varley 6, P Greville 7, S Clavin 6; C Boyle 6, J Gilligan 5; E Price 8, K Doyle 8, A Clarke 7; R Greville 6, J Galvin 5, J Boyle 5. Subs: D O'Reilly 6 for Clavin inj, D McNicholas 6 for Boyle (45), C Doyle 6 for C Boyle, C Shaw 6 for Clarke inj (52), A Craig for Varley (69).
Ref - P Murphy (Carlow)