Two goals in first-half injury time by Jack Fagan and Stephen Bennett, gave Waterford the platform to record their second successive victory in this year’s National Hurling League as they ran out comfortable nine-point winners over a dogged Westmeath in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, Sunday afternoon.
However, the victory alone wasn’t enough to impress Waterford manager Liam Cahill, who after the game stressed the need for improvement from his side.
“Our performance was very patchy, some good with the bad. It is far from the performance I would have expected considering our performance against Cork the weekend before.
“So it is definitely a work in progress.
I was disappointed with our intensity, our decision making, our handling errors and our inability to drive on and finish the game off when we were on top.”
Cahill saw his side struggle early on despite playing with a strong wind, and it wasn’t until Stephen Bennett fired in the first goal in the 17th minute that Waterford could enjoy a 1-7 to 0-2 lead.
Newcomers to the top flight Westmeath, who suffered a 17-point defeat to Galway on the opening day, battled back strongly.
Three frees by Niall Mitchell and points from play by Eoin Price and Darragh Clinton kept them in the game.
However just before the break, Fagan and Bennett pounced for goals, giving the Déise a half time lead of 3-10 to 0-6.
“The two goals just before half time probably flattered us a little,” said Cahill afterwards.
“We make too many simple basic handling errors and invite teams on us. We will be looking to work on all these before we play Limerick away in two weeks.”
Cahill was wholesome in his praise of star forward Stephen Bennett who finished the game with 2-8 to his name. “Stephen Bennett has really embraced what we are about, he is getting himself physically right.
“He has always been a great forward but he really seems to be relishing what we are doing here in Waterford now, and I hope his form continues right into the summer.”
Bennett didn’t have it all his own way though and he saw Westmeath goalkeeper Aaron McHugh produce a brilliant save from his 65th minute penalty.
McHugh’s penalty save arrived ten minutes after Niall Mitchell had fired to the Waterford net, to breathe life into the Lake County’s efforts.
After the game Westmeath manager Shane O’Brien was disappointed with the score line but pleased with his players efforts saying,
“I couldn’t have asked for any more from the players, they gave absolutely everything.
“There was a two to three minute spell before half time when they really punished us and I don’t think the score line is a fair reflection on the game.
“For a long, long spell of that game we played exceptionally well and I think we are going in the right direction.
“This is an adjustment and a huge challenge for us at this level but our lads are rising to that challenge.
“We are ambitious enough to try and take a big scalp at some stage along the line,” said the Dubliner.
Westmeath remain pointless as they face Cork at home in two weeks, while Waterford travel to Limerick on full points from two games.
Scorers for Waterford: S Bennett 2-8 (0-4 frees, 0-4 from ‘65s), J Fagan 1-0, D Lyons 0-2, P Curran 0-2, J Dillon 0-1, B Nolan 0-1, Pauric Mahony 0-1, M Kearney 0-1, Iarlaith Daly 0-1, Dessie Hutchinson 0-1.
Westmeath: N Mitchell 1-6 (0-5 frees), Ciaran Doyle 0-4, A Devine 0-2, E Price 0-1, D Clinton 0-1, S McGovern 0-1.
WATERFORD: B Nolan; S Fives, C Prunty, S McNulty; K Power, D Fives, I Daly; J Dillon, M O’Brien; N Montgomery, D Lyons, J Fagan; D Hutchinson, S Bennett, P Curran.
Subs used: M Kearney for M O’Brien (inj, 27 mins), B Power for D Hutchinson (42 mins), P Mahony for N Montgomery (49 mins), K Moran for B Power (56 mins), T Barron for Curran (66 mins).
WESTMEATH: A McHugh; B Doyle, T Doyle, A Ennis; A Craig, A Clarke, S Clavin; C Boyle, E Price; J Boyle, D McNicholas, R Greville; N Mitchell, D Clinton, D O’Reilly.
Subs used: A Devine for D O’Reilly (16 mins), C Doyle for D Clinton (35 mins), A Cox for B Doyle (41 mins), S McGovern for D McNicholas (53 mins), J Gilligan for R Greville (61 mins).
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin).