Michael Ryan’s Tipperary are through to round 2 of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship qualifiers – but they were dreadful against Westmeath in Thurles this afternoon, writes Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
In the first-ever championship meeting with Westmeath, Tipp won by nine points but struggled to impose themselves on the gritty visitors.
If Ryan was looking for a reaction following the Munster quarter-final loss to Cork almost six weeks ago, he was left disappointed on a forgettable afternoon.
Some will argue that the win is all that mattered but Ryan would have demanded a performance from his All-Ireland champions.
Tipp are in the hat for Monday morning’s round 2 qualifier draw but they’ll have to improve significantly to trouble superior opposition next weekend.
With 17 minutes of normal time remaining, Westmeath were just three points behind, 0-12 to 1-12, when Cormac Boyle forced a brilliant save from Tipp’s championship debutant and net-minder Daragh Mooney.
A goal then would have levelled matters but Tipp, playing with a second half breeze, swept to the other end of the field and sub Jason Forde pointed.
From there, they wouldn’t be caught and were eleven points clear before Westmeath’s leading scorer, Allan Devine, scored two points deep in stoppage time to keep the margin between the sides at full-time in single figures.
Tipp registered 16 wides over the course of the game and also suffered a real blow when Niall O’Meara was stretchered off in the second half with an ankle injury, while ace marksman Seamus Callanan was subbed off.
Showing six changes from the that started the Munster quarter-final defeat to Cork, Tipp never got going and only a late goal from sub John McGrath added some gloss to the scoreline.
It was a performance to be proud of for Westmeath – six days after their footballers were hammered by 31 points against Dublin.
Tipp led by just four points – 1-10 to 0-9 – at the end of a desperately poor first half.
John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer netted for the hosts in the 15th minute but it was one of the rare highlights of a dreadful opening period from the All-Ireland champions.
The game was 40 seconds old and Westmeath, playing with a first half breeze, had a two-point lead, Killian Doyle and Niall O’Brien raising white flags.
Tipp took over from there and were nine points clear, 1-9 to 0-4, by the 19th minute.
They could have goaled as early as the third minute but Paddy Carroll saved well at his near post from Michael Breen, before O’Dwyer found a way past him later in the half.
After moving into that big lead, the Premier County dozed off and went 18 minutes without a score, as Westmeath hit five on the spin.
That purple patch from the Lake County narrowed the gap to just three points – 0-9 to 1-9 – before Ronan Maher stopped the Tipp rot in the second minute of stoppage time, firing over the final score of the half from distance.
Scorers for Tipperary – John O’Dwyer 1-3 (0-1f), S Callanan 0-5 (4f, 1 65), J McGrath 1-1, N McGrath, N O’Meara & J Forde 0-2 each, R Maher, B Maher & Patrick Maher 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath – A Devine 0-6 (4f), P Greville (1f) & K Doyle 0-2 each, A Clarke, R Greville, D McNicholas, N O’Brien & C Boyle 0-1 each.
Tipperary – D Mooney; J Barry, T Hamill, D Maher; Joe O’Dwyer, R Maher, Pádraic Maher; B Maher, N McGrath; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, M Breen; John O’Dwyer, S Callanan, N O’Meara.
Subs – J Forde for Breen (44), J McGrath for Callanan (45), A McCormack for O’Meara (60), S O’Brien for Patrick Maher (64) T Fox for Pádraic Maher (68).
Westmeath – P Carroll; S Power, T Doyle, G Greville; A Craig, P Greville, L Varley; A Clarke, R Greville; J Boyle, K Doyle, D McNicholas; A Devine, N Mitchell, N O’Brien.
Subs – C Boyle for J Boyle (21), B Murtagh for McNicholas (64), D Egerton for O’Brien (66), J Galvin for C Boyle (69), C Shaw for Varley (70+1).
Referee – P O’Dwyer (Carlow)