John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer scored Tipp's first half goal against Westmeath this evening at Semple Stadium in Round 1 of the All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifiers Round 1
TIPPERARY 2-18 WESTMEATH 0-15
Without ever impressing Tipperary senior hurlers booked their place in the bowl for next Monday’s second round qualifier draw with a sluggish victory over minnows Westmeath at Semple Stadium this evening.
The All-Ireland champions provided the universally anticipated result at the end of a summer evening’s hurling, but the performance left a world to be desired. Tipp manager Michael Ryan will have a restless week ahead as Tipperary prepare for action once again on Saturday next in Round 2.
So disappointing was the Tipperary display over the 70 minutes that it was very difficult to see last year’s All-Ireland champions on the pitch, and impossible, on this performance, to see 2017 Liam McCarthy Cup winners. It will take a huge transformation, on what we evidenced this evening, to see Tippeary in the shake-up for ultimate honours. But the manager and the players won’t need any reminding of that; they, themselves, will be the first to acknowledge the shortcomings of this below-par performance.
Westmeath started the brighter and hit two fine points within a minute before Tipp settled, and in a lively opening it was 0-4 apiece after just seven minutes.
The Premier hit their best patch of the game between the 9th and 18th minutes scoring 1-5 without reply; John O’Dwyer’s fine goal on 15 minutes the anticipated key to unlocking the Lakesiders resistance.
Not so, Westmeath, managed by Ballymacarbry’s Michael Ryan, hit back with five unanswered points of their own to be just three adrift of the All-Ireland champions as half-time approached.
Indeed, Ronan Maher’s long range point in added time just before the break (1-10 to 0-9) was amazingly Tipp’s first score in 19 minutes – against a side who had already failed to beat Laois, Kerry and Offaly in this year’s championship.
Tipp had only managed 1-5 from play in opening 35 minutes, with ace scorer Seamus Callanan contributing five points from placed balls. Worryingly the Drom/Inch man was subsituted inside 10 minutes of the second half having failed to score at all from play.
The expected post-interval improvement by Tipperary was very slow to materialise and halfway through the second period Westmeath trailed by just three points at 1-12 to 0-12. A 53rd minute shot on goal by lively Westmeath sub Cormac Boyle was superbly saved by Tipp debutant keeper Darragh Mooney; had it gone in the hurling world would have shook at parity between the reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary and supposedly no-hopers Westmeath with just 17 minutes left on the clock.
That crucial save did however shake up Tipperary somewhat and five unanswered points from Jason Forde, John McGrath, John O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath (2) eased the nerves of all the Tipp fans in the 6,893 attendance. It had taken Tipperary all of 19 second half minutes to register their first point from play. Hardly the form of a team going anywhere fast.
The game was held up for a period with a leg injury to Tipp corner-forward Niall O’Meara – which rules him out of next week – and in the eight minutes of added time Tipp stretched their lead out to 11. After Jason Forde with his second point (making a case for his inclusion from the start next week), Tipp had their second goal. And it was another substitute, Steven O’Brien who was twice involved in the build-up before unselfishly offloading to John McGrath who finished on the volley.
To their credit, Westmeath finished as they started and Alan Devine rounded off a fine performance with the last two points of the game.
For Tipp it is a worrying time now. The long six weeks lay-off since the defeat to Cork hasn’t helped and this evening, unforced errors, poor first touches and an all-round lack of confidence seemed the order of the day. Seamus Callanan, Michael Breen and Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher from the starting forwards were substituted, while another forward Niall O’Meara went off injured.
On the positive side the introduction of John McGrath helped steady the ship, while others to do well were Donagh Maher, Thomas Hamill and Noel McGrath.
What can be achieved in just a week before the next game is anyone’s guess, but Michael Ryan was quick to point out post-match not to rule out what the benefit of a game could do for a side.
But credit also to Westmeath who played well above themselves and enjoyed the occasion on the hallowed turf in Thurles, never overawed in the home of hurling. The full-back line of Shane Power, Tommy Doyle and Gary Greville were excellent, indeed the three Greville brothers, Gary, Paul and Robbie did Raharney and their county proud. On a day to remember for Westmeath hurling, Killian Doyle, Alan Devine and Cormac Boyle also did very well.
Scorers for Tipperary – John O’Dwyer 1-3 (0-1F), Seamus Callanan 0-5 (4f, 1x65), John McGrath 1-1, Noel McGrath, Niall O’Meara and Jason Forde 0-2 each, Ronan Maher, Brendan Maher and Patrick Maher 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath – Allan Devine 0-6 (0-4F), Paul Greville (0-1F) and Killian Doyle 0-2 each, Aonghus Clarke, Robbie Greville, Derek McNicholas, Niall O’Brien and Cormac Boyle 0-1 each.
Daragh Mooney (Eire Óg Annacarty-Donohill)
James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane)
Tomás Hamill (Moyne-Templetuohy)
Donagh Maher (Burgess)
Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule)
Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields)
Padraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, captain)
Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh)
Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney)
Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh)
Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha)
Michael Breen (Ballina)
John O’Dwyer (Killenaule)
Seamus Callanan (Drom/Inch)
Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonaghs)
Jason Forde (Silvermines) for Breen (44)
John McGrath (Loughmore/Castleiney) for Callanan (45)
Aidan McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields) for O’Meara (inj, 60)
Steven O’Brien (Ballina) for Patrick Maher (63)
Tom Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty/Donohill) for Pádraic Maher (68)
Cormac Boyle for J Boyle (21)
Brendan Murtagh for McNicholas (64)
Darragh Egerton for O’Brien (66)
Jack Galvin for C Boyle (69)
Conor Shaw for Varley (71).
Referee – Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)