Allianz Hurling League Division 2A
WESTMEATH were too neat and classy for London on a bright and breezy afternoon at the Irish TV Grounds in Ruislip on Sunday, with the visitors picking up a comfortable win in the opening game of Allianz Hurling League Division 2A.
With a final score of 2-16 to 0-13, the Lake County kept London at bay with a goal in either half courtesy of Raharney duo Cormac Boyle and Robbie Greville respectively, although London made the brighter start.
With no representatives of 2015 London Senior Hurling Championship finalists St Gabriels in the starting XV, Sean Treacys forward Kevin O’Loughlin was manager Fergus McMahon’s biggest attacking threat, and he opened the scoring for the Exiles with a fine point from wide left with three minutes on the clock.
In contrast, Westmeath initially struggled to find their range, notching three wides in the opening six minutes, which handed the early initiative to the hosts as O’Loughlin scored his second from play soon after, shooting on the turn from close range after collecting Damien Brown’s deep ball in.
That was as good as it got for London, though, as Darragh Egerton got Westmeath off the mark on nine minutes with a great effort from wide right, but the opening goal on 12 minutes proved to be the game’s turning point, as a hopeful ball into the box from Boyle evaded the full-forward line and skimmed past London goalkeeper Padraig Buckley, who misjudged the flight of the sliotar.
Noel McDonnell responded with a well-worked point for London, but Westmeath soon edged into a four-point lead as Brendan Murtagh pointed from play.
Indeed, the sharp shooting of the impressive Murtagh – who scored five points, four of which came from frees – kept Westmeath’s tally ticking over throughout, while the equally accurate O’Loughlin ensured London avoided a drubbing, scoring 10 of his side’s 13 points.
A quick pair of points from Shane O’Donnell and O’Loughlin gave London renewed hope, but once again Westmeath responded well as Cormac Boyle fired over two from play.
The visitors then forged a goal opportunity but Robbie Greville sensibly took his point, while Darragh Egerton, Murtagh and Liam Varley added more to their tally as Westmeath racked up six scores without reply.
A free for a push in the back allowed O’Loughlin to score London’s sixth point in the final play of the first-half, with the score reading 1-11 to 0-6 at the break in Westmeath’s favour.
Westmeath’s win was all but assured moments into the second-half as full-forward Greville reacted quickest to pull on a loose ball after Murtagh’s ’65 came back off the upright.
In response, Fulham Irish forward O’Donnell scored arguably London’s best point of the match as he sailed over a beautiful effort from a tight angle to the left of goal, while O’Loughlin added a couple of frees as the Exiles threatened to come back into proceedings with three unanswered points.
Free takers Murtagh and O’Loughlin continued to out-do each other with some lovely strikes from dead balls, but in general play Westmeath were undoubtedly playing the neater hurling.
As such, the visitors were always in control, and Murtagh could even afford to have a well-struck penalty brilliantly saved by Robbert Emmetts goalkeeper Buckley after Westmeath’s Varley was fouled inside the area.
Niall O’Brien proved Murtagh is not the only expert free taker in the Westmeath ranks with a point from wide left, while Dowdell added another to their tally with a score from play after neatly controlling Murtagh’s short ’65.
Substitute Paddy Lynham got in on the act for Westmeath with a point a matter of seconds after coming off the bench, while O’Loughlin took his personal tally into double figures with another free, followed by a late ’65.
The nine-point deficit was at least an improvement on last year’s beating, with Westmeath having won 2-20 to 1-8 at Cusack Park in Mullingar, but it leaves London second-bottom of the Division 2A table, with only Derry beneath them.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Scorers: London: N McDonnell 0-1; S O’Donnell 0-2; K O’Loughlin 0-10 (8fs, 1 ’65). Westmeath: C Boyle 1-2; N O’Brien 0-1 (1f); B Murtagh 0-5 (4fs); L Varley 0-1; N Dowdall 0-3; R Greville 1-1; D Egerton 0-2; P Lynham 0-1
London: P Buckley; T Lawrence, L Guale, S Murphy; F Collins, B Regan, B Kelly; N McDonnell, D Brown; M O’Dwyer, K Reid, D Roberts; S O’Donnell, E Chawke, K O’Loughlin.
Subs used: C McAlindan for S Murphy (23 mins), S Lambert for M O’Dwyer (48), S Griffey for B Kiely (52)
Westmeath: P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, K Duncan; A Craig, G Greville, A McGrath; A Clarke, C Boyle; N O’Brien, B Murtagh, L Varley; N Dowdall, R Greville, D Egerton.
Subs used: T Gallagher on for K Duncan (40), A Devine for D Egerton (40), P Lynham for C Boyle (58), K Murphy for B Murtagh.
Yellow cards: D Brown (London); C McAlindan (London)
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)
Man of the match: Brendan Murtagh