NHL Division 1A: Waterford survive Westmeath revival
By Cian Dalton
Waterford 1-22 - 1-19 Westmeath
The sun was peaking through the clouds onto Walsh Park as Waterford looked to get their first win of the 2021 League campaign. Westmeath were looking to bounce back from their opening day hammering at the hands of Galway. Waterford suffered their own heavy defeat to Cork, on the scoreboard at least. There has been plenty of debate as to whether Waterford were as bad as the scoreline suggested. This was clearly a match they needed to win and there was 12 changes made from the losing side last weekend.
Despite a few mistakes from short puckouts and some poor first touches, Westmeath remained in touching distance with last year’s All Ireland finalists in the opening seventeen minutes. A low stinging shot into the back of the net from Mikey Kearney after fifteen minutes gave Waterford the opening goal. Niall O’Brien kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Lake County from his frees. Tommy Doyle marshalled the Westmeath full back line well, shutting out any other clear cut goal chances for Waterford.
The Déise played the lovely hurling we have become accustomed to when watching them in the first half. O’Brien varied his puck outs with the long range ones keeping the game flowing. The point of the half came from Keating, who soared over his marker before sticking it over the bar.
Westmeath’s accuracy in front of posts left a lot to be desired. Trailing by eight points after half an hour they had eight wides. Of course, not everything is going to go over the bar, but a few of those chances were scoreable.
Waterford never really got going in the first half despite being the better side. Westmeath were only down by six at half time.
Patrick Curran popped over two frees in quick succession to start off the second half for Waterford. Niall O’Brien and Davy Glennon saw the two scores and raised their opponents another. However, Waterford moved up a gear with another couple of Curran frees and a point from play for Billy Power. They could have had a second goal if it wasn’t for some fantastic harrying and a block from Aonghus Clarke.
Waterford played most of the second half with 14 men after Jack Fagan received two yellows. This made their second hald dominance all the more impressive. Many people have questioned whether it is any good for teams like Westmeath, Kerry or Antrim to name a few, to be in the higher leagues at all. There is a clear gulf in class between Westmeath and the rest of the teams in Division 1A, but the signs of improvement are there. Without playing the top opposition teams will never improve.
Westmeath came out firing after the second waterbreak with a brilliant point from Davy Glennon and a free from Cillian Doyle, taking over from Niall O’Brien who limped off injured. Patrick Curran steadied the Waterford ship with another free, but it was very much tit for tat, free for free.
A second red card of the match came with ten minutes remaining. Westmeath captain Cormac Boyle was shown a straight red card for a shoulder to the head. A late tackle on Tommy Doyle was not given by the ref, perhaps leading to frustration on the Westmeath man’s part. However, it was late and reckless.
Five minutes from time, Cillian Doyle tried the unthinkable from a close range free and fired the ball under Stephen O’Brien and four Waterford defenders, bringing the gap to two and making the last few minutes very interesting.
That goal seemed to wake Waterford up, Kevin Moran and Kieran Bennett scoring a few beautiful points to stretch the lead out.
This game had more red cards than goal! Darragh Lyons was sent off for a late tackle on Aonghus Clarke. With only a few minutes remaining, Westmeath could dare to dream of a shock win over an under performing Waterford side.
Unfortunately for the Lake County it finished 1-22 to 1-19 in favour of the home side. A late brace of points from Cillian Doyle was too late, but he and his teammates can take hope from that loss. Waterford were nowhere near their best and were lucky in the end to survive the late maroon scare.
Waterford: S. O’Brien, I. Kenny, S. Fives, T. Barron, S. Keating, I. Daly, K. Power, P. Hogan, B. Power, J. Fagan, P. Curran, D. Foran, J. Prendergast, M. Kiely, M. Kearney.
Westmeath: E. Skelly, D. Egerton, T. Doyle, C. Shaw, A. Craig, A. Clarke, S. Clavin, C. Boyle, R. Greville, J. Boyle, C. Doyle, D. Gannon, N. O’Brien, N. Mitchell, K. Doyle.
Referee: Cormac McAllister.
Waterford: Patrick Curran (11 frees), DJ Foran (3 points), Peter Hogan (1 point), Mikey Kearney (1 goal), Jack Prendergast (1 point), S. Keating (1 point), Kieran Power (1 point), Billy Power (1 point), Kevin Moran (1 point), Kieran Bennett (2 points).
Westmeath: Niall O’Brien (6 frees), Cormac Boyle (1 point), Cillian Doyle (1-7 (1-5 frees)), Aonghus Clarke (1 point), Davy Glennon (3 points), Josh Coll (1 point).