Limerick 1-24 Westmeath 0-18
Limerick maintained their 100% record in the Allianz Hurling League with a nine-point win over Westmeath at LIT Gaelic Grounds.
They were made to work for the victory as Westmeath produced an impressive second-half performance that saw them cut Limerick’s lead to four points in the latter stages.
However, David Dempsey fired in the game’s only goal in the 69th minute to see Limerick earn their fourth win as they bid to retain their league title.
John Kiely’s men made a flying start by scoring the first nine points before Niall Mitchell got Westmeath on the board in the 18th minute.
David Reidy opened the scoring for Limerick inside a minute with his first of eight points in the opening half. Tom Morrissey and Seamus Flanagan also got two points apiece in that spell as Limerick took control from the off.
Flanagan was a constant threat with his form a big boost for Kiely looking ahead to the Munster Championship.
Barry Nash and three Reidy frees saw Limerick 0-9 to 0-0 up before Mitchell got Westmeath up and running with a well-taken point.
That seemed to settle Westmeath and they grew in confidence as the half wore on. A couple of frees and two sideline cuts from Derek McNicholas saw them settle further.
Limerick upped the pace again just before the break with two Reidy frees and an excellent Brian Ryan point from play that helped them to a 0-15 to 0-6 lead at the break.
Reidy made way for Dempsey at half-time due to a stiff neck and was missed for Limerick in the second half as a week’s warm-weather training Portugal began to take its toll.
Westmeath opened the second half scoring through a Darragh Clinton that was immediately cancelled out by a Tom Morrissey free.
Two McNicholas frees and Jack Galvin’s second point of the game then reduced Limerick’s lead to seven eight minutes into the second half.
Morrissey again replied from play after he was picked out by Darragh O’Donovan. However, that was to be his last positive contribution, as he was soon sent off for an off the ball incident.
Westmeath then hit three in a row through two further McNicholas frees and another excellent effort by Clinton after he was brilliantly picked out by Galvin.
Limerick were starting to creak a little bit, but Ryan’s second and Flanagan’s fourth point settled any nerves at the Ennis Road venue.
Flanagan also came within a whisker of a goal with a thunderous shot that cannoned off the crossbar.
Westmeath kept plugging away at Limerick though and another McNicholas free, as well as a well-taken Josh Coll point from play, kept them in touch.
Coll hit the target again on 58 minutes to make the score 0-20 to 0-16 in Limerick’s favour and it looked at that stage that a shock could be on.
Limerick responded through Darren O’Connell, but McNicholas’ 10th point of the afternoon kept Westmeath’s hopes alive going into the final stages.
A long-range Barry Nash point put Limerick five clear again and a superb individual goal from Dempsey make sure of the win. He beat a couple of Westmeath defenders and came in along the end line before firing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
Following the victory, Kiely gave an update on injuries to Peter Casey and Shane Dowling. Casey is expected to be back to full training this week, but the news is not positive about Dowling.
The Na Piarsaigh marksman’s knee injury picked up last season has not responded well to treatment and it is unclear as to whether he will play any part in Limerick’s 2020 campaign.
“Shane has a knee injury at the moment and the progress on it is really, really poor in terms of him finding improvements in it and being able to reengage with training,” said Kiely.
“That’s an ongoing issue for Shane at the moment. It’s a real blow because Shane has been a huge member of the group for a number of years and this injury is one he had again two years previous.
“He had some procedures done on it back then and it was ok for two years, but it came back. He got the procedure done on it and this time it hasn’t been successful.
“We just have to reassess where he is at and see what the next step is in terms of helping him to get well again and get going again.”
When asked was Dowling out for the remainder of the season, Kiely added: “I can’t answer that question. I don’t know. Hopefully, in the next week or so we will get another opinion on it and see where it’s at.”
Scorers for Limerick: D Reidy 0-8 (7f), T Morrissey 0-7 (4f), S Flanagan 0-4, D Dempsey 1-0, B Nash and B Ryan 0-2 each, D O’Connell 0-1.
Scorers for Westmeath: D McNicholas 0-10 (8f, 2 s/l), D Clinton 0-3, J Galvin and J Coll 0-2 each, S Clavin 0-1.
LIMERICK: B Hennessy; S Finn, M Casey, A Costello; B Nash, D Hannon, D Morrissey; J Considine, D O’Donovan; D Reidy, T Morrissey, B Ryan; D O’Connell, S Flanagan, G Mulcahy.
Subs: K Hayes for Mulcahy (h-t), D Dempsey for Reidy (h-t), B O’Grady for Finn (42), P O’Loughlin for Hannon (52), R Hanley for Considine (62).
WESTMEATH: A McHugh; A Ennis, T Doyle, C Shaw; D Egerton, A Clarke, L Varley; S Clavin, A Cox; C Boyle, D McNicholas, R Greville; J Boyle, N Mitchell, J Galvin.
Subs: D Clinton for Ennis (27), C Doyle for Cox (34), J Coll for J Boyle (h-t), J Gilligan for Varley (44), B Doyle for Egerton (65)
Referee: S Hynes (Galway)