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Sweet Berry strike adds gloss to Model victory

Wexford collected an opening brace of points courtesy of their expected win over Westmeath at Cusack Park, Mullingar yesterday.

However, it took a well-taken goal from substitute Jim Berry, seven minutes from the end of the match, to finally shake off a gallant but limited home side, who are now under the stewardship of former Offaly star Kevin Martin.

On a very cold afternoon, the game was played in front of approximately 400 spectators in ideal conditions for hurling. The home side started well and were full value for their two-point lead (0-5 to 0-3) after 13 minutes, Westmeath's tally including two quality scores from Enda Loughlin. Crucially, they spurned a goal chance at the midpoint of the half, Derek McNicholas (who may have been impeded) and Dan Carty both failing under pressure to apply the finishing touch in the Wexford goalmouth.

Westmeath still led (0-6 to 0-5) with 10 minutes of normal time remaining in the first half but the visitors, with PJ Nolan calling the shots in and around midfield, went on to whip over eight unanswered points (including three Diarmuid Lyng frees) before the break, to put them in a commanding lead of 0-13 to 0-6 at half-time.

Another successful Lyng free extended Wexford's lead less than five minutes after the resumption, but Westmeath raised their game and five points without reply (shared by Andrew Mitchell and Brendan Murtagh from placed balls) had the deficit down to just a goal after 15 minutes of the second half.

However, Colm Bonnar's troops got on top again and were already six points to the good in the 63rd minute when a loose pass from Westmeath captain Andrew Mitchell, who generally had a fine game at centre half-back, resulted in Berry effectively ending the match as a contest when he scored a terrific goal, after which the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion.

Scorers -- Wexford: D Lyng 0-9 (0-7f, 0-1 '65), P Nolan 0-3, J Berry 1-0, D Stamp, C Kenny, D Nolan, R Jacob, S Banville, P Atkinson, M Travers, A Shore 0-1 each. Westmeath: B Murtagh 0-6 (0-6f), A Mitchell 0-4 (0-3f, 0-1 '65), E Loughlin 0-2, C Curley, P Dowdall 0-1 each.

Wexford -- D Flynn; E Doyle, P Roche, K Rossiter; D Stamp, C Kenny, R Keogh; W Doran, C Farrell; D Lyng, PJ Nolan, D Nolan; R Jacob, S Banville, P Atkinson. Subs: M Travers for Stamp (53), J Berry for Banville (58), A Shore for Nolan (62), D Kehoe for Doyle (67).

Westmeath -- P Burke; G Gavin, D McCormack, A Price, J Shaw; A Mitchell, E Price, P Dowdall; J Clarke, E Loughlin; B Murtagh, C Curley, A Dowdall, D McNicholas, D Carty. Subs: P Greville for Dowdall (28), P Gilsenan for Carty (47), R Jackson for McNicholas (52), K Cosgrove for Loughlin (59), N Flanagan for Clarke (67).

Ref -- T Carroll (Offaly).

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