At the third time of asking, Tipperary recorded their first win of the Allianz Hurling League as they put Westmeath to the sword at Semple Stadium.
After pushing Cork to four points last weekend in Mullingar, the Lake County came to Thurles with some confidence and indeed in the first 10 minutes played in such a manner as they shared the opening six points, while Brian Hogan was forced into making a sharp save to deny Killian Doyle.
However, from there on, when Tipp got into a flow it was a no-contest at times, not helped by Westmeath going down to 14 men four minutes into the second half when top scorer Doyle was sent off following a late pull across the legs of Tipp defender Sean O’Brien.
“It’s a very tough one to take to come down here to Semple Stadium and to underperform the way that we did, going down to 14 again proved to be hugely costly,” admitted Westmeath manager Shane O’Brien.
“We started the game very positively and were there or thereabouts after 10 minutes and we thought we were playing very well. There was a bit of cohesion to our play but obviously the first goal proved to be a turning point in the game.”
That goal came from Cian Darcy on sixteen minutes when Tipperary captain Seamus Callanan chased down Westmeath goalie Aaron McHugh and forced him to into a mistake, with Darcy supplying the easy finish.
From there, Tipperary didn’t look back and with Jake Morris scoring a second goal nine minutes later, the home side had the game wrapped up at half-time, leading 2-14 to 0-7.
“Some of our passages of play throughout that first half were very likeable,” said Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.
“When we worked the ball through the lines and found the right men we were impressive but some aspects of our play in the first half we wouldn’t be happy with but we did give ourselves the platform to win the game in the first half.
“Once the sending off took place in the second half the game petered out.
“We’ve got a win on the board and boosted our score difference and are some way back in the league.”
Tipperary will likely need to beat both Waterford and Galway in their remaining games to reach the knockout stages but they will be happy to have gotten a win under their belts after four competitive defeats so far.
They also managed to get more game time into captain Seamus Callanan who only got on the scoresheet with his goal and a point in injury time while Noel McGrath made his first appearance of the season off the bench in the second period.
It helped that he fell into the extra man role left by Doyle’s dismissal as Tipp filled their boots with Ronan Maher getting forward to score three points from play while there was a boost in confidence for Michael Breen at midfield and in attack, Jason Forde was unerring with 14 points, four from play.
This first campaign back in the top flight was always going to have days like these for Westmeath and the defeat means ahead of their final group game away to Limerick next Sunday, that they will be playing Carlow in the relegation final, which will be their most important game of the campaign.
For Tipperary, they welcome their own native son Liam Cahill and Waterford to Thurles next Sunday for a game with not only league implications, but also with the opening round of the Munster Championship now looming on the horizon.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 0-14 (9 frees, 1 s/l); J Morris 1-3; C Darcy, S Callanan 1-1 each; R Maher 0-3; A Flynn, M Breen 0-2 each; M Kehoe 0-1.
Scorers for Westmeath: K Doyle 0-7f, A Devine 0-5f; D McNicholas 0-2; A Clarke, C Doyle 0-1 each.
Tipperary: Brian Hogan; C Barrett, B Heffernan, S O’Brien; S Kennedy, R Maher, B O’Mara; A Flynn, M Breen; J Forde, S Callanan, N O’Meara; C Darcy, J Morris, M Kehoe.
Subs: C Morgan for Barrett (44); N McGrath for O’Brien (48); D Quirke for Kehoe (48); P Flynn for O’Meara (56); P Cadell for Kennedy (66).
Westmeath: A McHugh; A Ennis, T Doyle, C Shaw; A Craig, A Clarke, L Varley; C Boyle, R Greville; J Boyle, D McNicholas, J Coll; K Doyle, A Devine, N Mitchell.
Subs: C Doyle for Coll (24); B McHugh for A McHugh (HT); D Clinton for Boyle (48); D Egerton for Ennis (58); J McCarthy for Mitchell (62).
Ref: P Murphy (Carlow)