Ryan salutes Limerick bravery after O'Brien sees red
Limerick 1-24 Westmeath 0-18
After two weeks in the trenches since their loss to Tipperary in the Munster championship, Limerick manager TJ Ryan says he is delighted to see his side deliver in adversity in Mullingar.
This was a real test of a side with brittle confidence. A man down for most of the game after Seanie O'Brien's red card after 30 minutes, like Tipp, their Munster conquerors, Limerick discovered new levels of belief and bravery to kick on to the win.
Before half-time, Limerick looked truly rattled. They had led by five points early on, playing into a gale, but the sending off arrived at Westmeath's period of real dominance. A man down and a point down at the break, this was the time for them to show their class.
"I just thought the energy we showed there in the second-half, the calmness and the professionalism, I'm very happy with it," said the Limerick manager
"You want to get back on the field, you want to get confidence. Being a man down was always going to make life a bit more difficult but we have to be happy with the second-half. We know we've work to do, we're in the hat on Monday morning and look forward to next weekend.
"I'm fully aware that we have to improve. It's a quick turnaround. We have a few lads with a couple of knocks and tired bodies from during the week with the 21s. But it's a good win, I'll take it any day, nine points."
After a season that has delivered so much progress, Westmeath will be disappointed with Saturday's result.
Had Brendan Murtagh scored his penalty in the 49th minute, his side would have take a one-point lead and halted Limerick's second-half charge. But he missed and at the other end Dowling was unerring.
"Devastated isn't the word, there's no doubt about that. We played a lot of really good hurling in the first-half but I really felt today that it was there for us and we just didn't take it," said Westmeath boss Michael Ryan.
"I think if we had got a goal in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second-half, it'd have been a different story. But look, it's a game of inches. Unfortunately the inches fell on the wrong side today."
Afterwards, Michael Ryan indicated that he is keen to stay on for another year to continue the growth of hurling in Westmeath, but Limerick still have plenty of improving to make in the short term.
Scorers - Limerick: S Dowling 0-14 (10f, 2'65); K Downes, D Hannon 0-3; G Mulcahy 1-0; J Ryan, P Browne, D O'Donovan, D Reidy 0-1. Westmeath: N O'Brien 0-11 (7f, 1'65, 1'slc); B Murtagh (1f), A Clarke 0-2; A Craig, C Boyle, A Devine 0-1.
Limerick: N Quaid 7; S O'Brien 4, D Morrissey 7, R English 7; D Byrnes 8, G O'Mahony 7, P O'Brien 7; J Ryan 7, D O'Donovan 8; B Nash 7, D Hannon 8, P Browne 7; K Downes 8, S Dowling 8, G Mulcahy 7. Subs: G Hegarty 7 for Nash (50), R McCarthy 6 for Morrissey (59), D Reidy 7 for Hannon (59), A Dempsey for Ryan (63), T Condon for English (66).
Westmeath: P Maloney 8; C Shaw 6, T Doyle 7, T Gallagher 6; A Craig 8, A Clarke 8, A McGrath 7; C Boyle 8, E Price 7; N O'Brien 7, B Murtagh 7, A Devine 8; D Egerton 7, D McNicholas 6, N Mitchell 8. Subs: R Greville 6 for McNicholas (47), L Varley 6 for McGrath (49), K Doyle 6 for Mitchell (55), G Greville for Shaw (69).
Ref: A Kelly (Galway).