“Fairness doesn’t come into it.”
John Meyler’s comment afterwards was almost as telling as the scoreboard at the final whistle. Cork were here to take care of business and they had theirs done well before half-time.
As a hurling evangelist, Meyler would have more sympathy for Westmeath than most but here there was no mercy.
Westmeath’s decision to set up two sweepers to keep things respectable backfired as Cork shot on sight and more often than not between the posts. By the half-hour mark a supply of balls had to be sent down to Conor Lynch’s goal as so many sliotars had flown onto the terrace behind or over the nets.
That Westmeath had six days to get over losing to Laois was never going to be enough but Meyler wasn’t in the mood to pay respects.
“Fairness doesn’t come into it. We’ve to play Kilkenny next Sunday — is it fair to play a week (after this)… look, they are the rules. You get into the Joe McDonagh Cup final, you win or you lose it and you’ve a game the following weekend and that’s it. We’ve played four matches in the Munster Championship in five weeks (actually six weeks).
“We know that it’s an opportunity for Westmeath, it’s an opportunity for Laois to show off their skills and how far they’ve come. They’ve come on a long way but they put on two sweepers there and their shot selection was poor but if they improve on that…
I think Laois have improved enormously. The fact is we have to improve as well. It’s a carrot really for those counties.
Later in the afternoon, Laois more than justified that compliment from Meyler. His opposite number Joe Quaid praised his players’ efforts but knew the schedule and the gulf in class was going to hurt them.
“The one thing I asked them was die with their boots on and every one of them did. They are sore in there, tired, bitter but they are a really good bunch of guys. Their skill level is as good as anything in the country, we just need to get it sharper and quicker. And the only way we will do that is play top teams.
“If they (the GAA) are serious about it, they need to break it into two groups of four.
“Carlow this year, had three or four moral victories. They’re still going back down. Waterford and Clare shipped bigger beatings in Munster with no consequences. What happens if Kerry win the McDonagh, they have to go out the following week and play a preliminary quarter-final and then they have to go and play the bottom team in Munster after that. It’s stacked against development teams.”
Even if he whipped off three of his best players by the break, Meyler had shown Westmeath the ultimate respect by putting out close to what he will put out against Kilkenny this Sunday.
“You can go in to games and pick whatever team you want. We needed to give fellas a blow out today. we’re playing Kilkenny next Sunday. Good preparation for Hoggie (Patrick Horgan) and those lads. Hoggie wants to play every game. Nash wants to play every game.
“Robbie O’Flynn came on there and played really well in the second half and scored a goal and a few points, so competition for places in massive. And that’s what we expect as well. That’s what he gives you.
He gives you that extra bit on the end of goals. That will be important. We’ll use 20, 21 players next Sunday.”
Six points without reply between the eighth and 14th minute set in train what was to follow. Alan Cadogan was flying, making light of how Quaid had stationed Aonghus Clarke behind the half-back line and Eoin Price in front of it.
Darragh Fitzgibbon acquitted himself well in the centre-forward role he was asked to fill. A further six points without reply brought Cork to 16 points by the 25th minute and all six forwards had scored from play by the 32nd minute.
Cork and their large following in the 3,280 crowd in TEG Cusack Park could afford to think of Kilkenny by half-time when they led 0-24 to 0-9 but then the likes of O’Flynn were out to impress. After scoring Cork’s first point of the second half, he combined with Horgan to score the game’s only goal in the 41st minute.
Westmeath had enough scoring chances to make things respectable but their radar was so off and they ended up with 19 wides.
Meyler knew he couldn’t take too much from the game but what he did was helpful. “Good shooting and overall good work ethic at times. It’s difficult coming up to these matches when you’re expected to win by 20 or 30 points and if you don’t you’ve played poorly.”
Adding Tim O’Mahony to midfield and switching Fitzgibbon to the half-forward line, he admitted, was not planned until he learned of Aidan Walsh’s injury the previous weekend.
Scorers for Westmeath:
K. Doyle (0-9, 6 frees); E. Price (0-4); A. Clarke (0-2); R. Greville, P. Greville, S. Clavin, Ciarán Doyle, J. Galvin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork:
P. Horgan (0-10, 5 frees); R. O’Flynn (1-4); A. Cadogan, S. Kingston, S. Harnedy (0-5 each); C. Lehane (0-4); D. Fitzgibbon (0-3); B. Cooper, T. O’Mahony, J. Coughlan, D. Dalton (0-1 each).
C. Lynch; G. Greville, T. Doyle, D. Egerton; A. Clarke (c); L. Varley, P. Greville, S. Clavin; E. Price; C. Boyle, J. Gilligan; K. Doyle, J. Boyle; J. Galvin, R. Greville.
Subs for Westmeath:
D. O’Reilly for S. Clavin (40); D. McNicholas for J. Boyle (46); Ciarán Boyle for Cormac Boyle (48); C. Shaw for A. Clarke (inj 52); A. Craig for L. Varley (70).
G. Greville (second yellow, 69).
A. Nash; S. McDonnell, E. Cadogan, N. O’Leary; C. Joyce, M. Ellis, M. Coleman; B. Cooper, T. O’Mahony; C. Lehane, D. Fitzgibbon, S. Kingston; A. Cadogan, P. Horgan, S. Harnedy (c).
Subs for Cork:
D. Cahalane for M. Coleman, J. Coughlan for A. Cadogan, R. O’Flynn for B. Cooper (all h-t); D. Dalton for S. Harnedy (45); D. Browne for M. Ellis (51).
P. Murphy (Carlow).