Westmeath escape with credit but 14-man Limerick advance with nine-point victory
Limerick 1-24 Westmeath 0-18
Shane Dowling hit 14 points as TJ Ryan’s 14-man Limerick qualified for the second round of the qualifiers with a nine-point triumph at Cusack Park.
Seanie O’Brien saw red in the 30th minute for Limerick, but they still eased into the next round, but it could have been a lot tighter had Brendan Murtagh converted his penalty early in the second-half.
Freetaker Niall O’Brien contributed 11 of Westmeath’s scores, but after the penalty miss Limerick showed admirable nerve to close out the game, with Dowling’s shooting his side to victory.
It seemed like a strange call for Limerick captain Nickie Quaid to choose to play into the very strong wind in the opening half, but when his side raced into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes the call looked fully justified.
But after that early glut of scores from Limerick, Westmeath grew in confidence and with Niall O’Brien unerring from placed balls they kept in touch, while six points in a row between the 11th and 22nd minutes saw the sides level again.
A goal from Graeme Mulcahy nine minutes from half-time should have been the score to propel Limerick into the interval on a high, but instead the home side fired six of the remaining seven points, while O’Brien’s sending off for a strike across Cormac Boyle on the half-hour mark meant a hard job was mad more difficult for the Treaty men.
A couple of super saves from Paddy Maloney kept the Limerick challenge at bay in the first-half, but it seemed as if points from Hannon and Dowling, and Mulcahy’s goal had set Limerick up for a big surge.
Westmeath’s response was excellent though as Craig, Devine and O’Brien hit points in as many minutes, while Paudie O’Brien’s red card meant Limerick must have been happy to only trail 0-13 to 1-9 at the break.
A great James Ryan point from the left got his side up and running in the 37th minute, and despite Niall O’Brien’s reply for the home side, Downes, Darragh O’Donovan and Paul Browne all scored to put Limerick into a 1-16 to 0-14 lead.
However in the midst of that good run of scores, Westmeath should have taken the lead, but Brendan Murtagh fired his 49th minute penalty wide after Darragh Eagerton had been fouled.
From that point Westmeath never had the same zest to their play and as Dowling kept converting his frees Limerick eased to the win.
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; S O’Brien, D Morrissey, R English; D Byrnes, G O'Mahony, P O’Brien; J Ryan, D O’Donovan; B Nash, D Hannon, P Browne; K Downes, S Dowling, G Mulcahy.
Subs: G Hegarty for Nash (50), R McCarthy for Morrissey (59), D Reidy for Hannon (59), A Dempsey for Ryan (63), T Condon for English (66).
Westmeath: P Maloney; C Shaw, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, A Clarke, A McGrath; C Boyle, E Price; N O'Brien, B Murtagh, A Devine; D Egerton, D McNicholas, N Mitchell.
Subs: R Greville for McNicholas (47), L Varley for McGrath (49), K Doyle for Mitchell (55), G Greville for Shaw (69).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).