Making an impact in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship qualifier group is Westmeath’s seasonal ambition so Sunday’s match at Cusack Park, Mullingar against Carlow promises to be interesting.
Carlow, so impressive in the early stages of the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A campaign, eventually suffered a couple of surprise setbacks which denied them a shot at promotion. That is exactly what Westmeath earned by qualifying for the divisional decider, but Kerry punished the Midlanders’ lapses in first-half concentration at the Gaelic grounds.
Ultimately Westmeath were defeated by Kerry in a goal-laden match, but there was enough promise shown by the Midlanders during the spring to give them hope entering the provincial championship.
Michael Ryan has continued to introduce young players to the inter-county arena and the manner in which Westmeath secured some decent results in the league was impressive. Niall O’Brien remains an opportunistic forward capable of finishing chances so Westmeath will be anxious to involve their chief marksman throughout the game.
Carlow, though, are a physically strong team featuring a lively attack which includes Martin Kavanagh, Sean Murphy, and Seamus Murphy. Ryan will have Westmeath primed for a battle and with both teams especially eager to make a winning start it could be an eventful encounter.
Last weekend Westmeath minor hurlers staged a gutsy rally to claim a 3-10 to 1-14 Leinster Championship victory over Carlow at Netwatch Cullen Park.
Paddy Doody and Ciaran Doyle netted vital second-half goals for Westmeath, who trailed by 0-11 to 1-4 at the break.
Niall Mitchell scored an opening period goal for Westmeath, but Carlow were excellent initially with Kevin McDonald and Chris Nolan effective.
Mitchell’s 13th-minute goal was followed by a Ciaran Doyle point which put Westmeath 1-3 to 0-5 ahead, but Carlow responded again.
Dean Grennan, McDonald (2 ), Sean Brennan, and Liam Galway all rifled over points as Carlow led at the break by four.
An Andrew Kane goal immediately after the restart stretched Carlow’s advantage to seven points, but Westmeath came thundering back.
Killian Doyle’s free-taking was hugely important as the gap was reduced to four by the 39th minute when Doody goaled.
Encouraged by that major, Doody restored parity with a fine point from play before being fouled for a penalty which was converted by Ciaran Doyle. Westmeath will now face Wexford in the Leinster quarter final on Saturday May 9.