Paul Brennan reports from Austin Stack Park
KERRY CANNOT LOSE against Offaly in Tullamore in two weeks if they are to remain in the Leinster SHC after being brought back down to Earth by Westmeath in Tralee this afternoon, succumbing by five points to the group leaders.
Westmeath showed that their comprehensive 14-point win over Offaly a week earlier was no freak result as they came to Tralee and schooled Kerry on a wet pitch in the finer points of the game.
Having been four points down at half time, Westmeath outscored the hosts by 1-11 to 0-5 in the second period, their dominance crowned by Derek McNicholas’ 46th-minute goal that gave them the lead for the first time since they opened the scoring in the second minute.
Kerry had looked lethargic and bereft of ideas for much of the first half, and the life drained from them throughout the second half, with a straight red card for Mikey Boyle in the 75th minute the final insult to injury for the Kingdom.
The first half was a curious affair with Westmeath playing the more imaginative hurling but Kerry taking a four-point lead to the interval, somewhat against the run of play. The visitors were quicker of hand and thought for much of the first half, with Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville and Niall O’Brien lending pace and creativity up front, but they couldn’t quite convert that dominance into a lead on the scoreboard.
Midfielder Eoin Price got Westmeath off the mark in the second minute but Kerry responded with two Shane Nolan frees, either side of a John Egan score, to nudge Kerry ahead.
Liam Varley got Westmeath’s second point after 10 minutes but Kerry, a little against the run of play, engineered a goal from some blue-collar industry. Michael O’Leary did the heavy lifting to get the ball to the end line, and when he knocked it into the small square Mikey Boyle managed to spoon it to the net past a flat-footed Westmeath defence.
Kerry’s doggedness deserved that much, but Westmeath were simply hurling better and points from McNicholas, Alan Devine, Niall O’Brien and Cormac Boyle brought Westmeath back level, 0-6 to 1-3, by the 19th minute.
Westmeath got the perfect start to the second half with unanswered points from Eoin Price, Niall O’Brien and two from Cormac Boyle bringing it back to parity, 1-8 to 0-11, by the 41st minute.
Mikey Boyle’s point from 75 metres lifted the siege momentarily, but then McNicholas took Aaron Craig’s long delivery and drove his shot low past Aidan McCabe. The goal put Westmeath two ahead but their confidence was rising and they saw out the game easy enough, with the influential McNicholas scoring two more from play and Tommy Doyle giving a masterclass at full-back.
Scorers for Kerry: Shane Nolan (0-4f), Mikey Boyle (1-1), Jack Goulding (0-2), Philip Lucid (0-2f), Brendan O’Leary (0-2), John Egan (0-1), Brandon Barrett (0-1). Scorers for Westmeath: Derek McNicholas (1-3), Niall O’Brien (0-5, 4f), Cormac Boyle (0-3), Eoin Price (0-2), Alan Devine (0-1), Robbie Greville (0-1), Liam Varley (0-1), Aonghus Clarke (0-1), Brendan Murtagh (0-1).
1. Aidan McCabe (Kilmoyley)
2. Bryan Murphy (Causeway)
3. Patrick Kelly (Clarecastle)
4. Keith Carmody (Causeway)
5. Jason Diggins (Causeway)
6. Darren Dineen (St Brendan’s)
7. Tom Murnane (Kilmoyley)
8. John Griffin (Lixnaw)
9. Daniel Collins (Kilmoyley)
10. Brendan O’Leary (Abbeydorney)
11. Michael O’Leary (Abbeydorney)
12. Shane Nolan (Crotta O’Neills)
13. Jack Goulding (Ballyduff)
14. Mikey Boyle (Ballyduff)
15. John Egan (St Brendan’s)
24. Philip Lucid (Ballyheigue) for S Nolan (HT)
21. Jordan Conway (Crotta O’Neills) for M O’Leary (46 min)
19. Tommy Casey (Causeway) for J Griffin (55 min)
26. Brandon Barrett (Causeway) for J Goulding (60 mins)
18. John Buckley (Lixnaw) for D Collins (65 min)
1. Paddy Maloney (Castletown Geoghegan)
2. Shane Power (Clonkill)
3. Tommy Doyle (Lough Lene Gaels)
4. Tommy Gallagher (Castlepollard)
5. Aaron Craig (St Oliver Plunketts)
6. Gary Greville (Raharney)
7. Aonghus Clarke (Castletown Geoghegan)
8. Cormac Boyle (Rahrney)
9. Eoin Price (Clonkill)
10. Alan Devine (Castlepollard)
11. Derek McNicholas (Lough Lene Gaels)
12. Robbie Greville (Raharney)
13. Liam Varley (Castletown Geoghegan)
19. Darragh Egerton (Clonkill)
15. Niall O’Brien (Castletown Geoghegan)
26. Niall Mitchell (Clonkill) for T Gallagher (25)
14. Brendan Murtagh (Clonkill) for D Egerton (59)
24. Darragh Clinton (Delvin) for E Price (72)
21. Conor Shaw (Brownstown) for S Power (74)
17. Alan McGrath (Clonkill) for McNicholas (75)
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)
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