Westmeath firepower wins Division 2 hurling title

Westmeath 2-12 Carlow 0-12

Westmeath 2-12 Carlow 0-12

Westmeath's greater scoring power saw them claim their first National Hurling League title at the Gaelic Grounds this afternoon.

Johnny Dooley's men won the Division 2 final mainly thanks to goals, either side of half-time, from John Shaw and Derek McNicholas.

Protecting a nine-match unbeaten record, Carlow trailed by 1-08 to 0-06 at half-time with Westmeath captain Brendan Murtagh scoring 0-05.

McNicholas whipped home a 37th-minute goal and although they fought valiantly, Carlow were left to rue missed penalties from Brendan Lawler and Ruairi Dunbar.

This Leinster duel never really got going as Westmeath, the two-time Christy Ring Cup champions, had much more attacking flair and precisions with Murtagh, Enda Loughlin and substitute Barry Kennedy all having key roles.

It was 27 years ago that Carlow last won the Division 2 crown but the Barrowsiders, who have been in impressive recent form under manager Jimmy Greene, were made to pay for a sloppy opening.

They took too long to settle and Westmeath were able to pull into a 0-06 to 0-02 lead midway through the first half.

Murtagh scored four of his side's early points, including the opener from the right wing in the third-minute. Adam Price set up McNicholas for Westmeath's second point and Loughlin also added his name to the scoresheet.

Carlow got off the mark in the ninth-minute with their skipper Mark Brennan scoring from play. Shane Kavanagh added a free soon after but Westmeath remained in the ascendancy.

Greene's men did find an extra gear coming up to the half-hour mark and they got back on terms at 0-06 apiece with Brendan Lawler nabbing two of their points and Paul Kehoe and Damien Roberts also finding the target.

Just as Carlow were beginning to look good, they leaked a sucker-punch goal. John Shaw, a tricky full-forward to deal with, found space to crack home past Mark Ryan in the 31st-minute.

Murtagh brought his personal tally to 0-05 before the half was over and Dooley's side were in pole position.

Westmeath strengthened their grip on the game when, just two minutes after the restart, a point attempt bounced back off the crossbar and with Ryan unfortunately caught napping, Derek McNicholas was on hand to tap home the loose ball.

Murtagh tagged on a free to leave nine point between the sides. By the time Paddy Dowdall has scored Westmeath's final point for 2-12 to 0-09, Carlow were still nine points in arrears.

They missed a golden chance for a goal when Lawler had a penalty stopped on the line by Mark Briody and the sliotar was scrambled away to safety.

Carlow's Ruairi Dunbar and Karl English kept the pressure on with two well-taken points, and Roberts also added to his tally.

Carlow's afternoon was summed up in injury-time when a Dunbar's penalty attempt was deflected over the bar, with Greene and his management also left cursing 11 wides.

Afterwards, Westmeath skipper Murtagh gladly accepted the trophy from GAA President Nickey Brennan, in front of a 16,364-strong crowd.

WESTMEATH: M Briody; G Gavin, P Greville, C Jordan; D Curley, D McCormack, A Price; P Clarke, B Connaughton; P Dowdall (0-02), B Murtagh (0-07, 0-03f), E Loughlin (0-02); D McNicholas (1-01), J Shaw (1-00), N Kilcoyne.

Subs used: B Kennedy for Kilcoyne (27 mins), L Smith for Clarke (33), A Mitchell for McNicholas (56), J Clarke for Loughlin (68 mins)

CARLOW: M Ryan; A Gaul, M Ryan, J Rodgers; E Cody, S Kavanagh (0-01, 0-01f), R Coady; J Hickey, D Roberts (0-02); P Kehoe (0-01), R Foley, M Brennan (0-01); R Dunbar (0-03, 0-02f), S Murphy, B Lawler (0-03, 0-03f).

Subs used: K English (0-1) for Lawler (48 mins), J Waters for S Murphy (58 mins)

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)

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