Cork hurlers make heavy weather of tough league test in Westmeath

Cork hurlers make heavy weather of tough league test in Westmeath
Eoin Cadogan of Cork bursts out against Westmeath. Picture: INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy

Westmeath 1-14 Cork 3-12

IT took a while, but Cork eventually pulled clear of Westmeath at TEG Cusack Park yesterday to record a second straight Allianz HL Division 1 Group A vicotyr.

In tempest-like conditions in Mullingar, it wasn’t pretty and Cork’s play left a lot to be desired at times but ultimately they claimed the points over their dogged Lake County opponents.

Cork went 14 first-minutes without a score as Westmeath clawed their back into the game by eating into a six-point deficit. Then, despite Patrick Horgan’s penalty goal putting Cork six ahead again on the resumption, the hosts gave themselves hope once more as Allan Devine’s free travelled all the way to the net.

When that was followed by a fine Derek McNicholas point, just two points separated the sides once more but, after both sides were reduced to 14 men following a scuffle, Cork settled again and saw the game out, aided by a fortuitous Bill Cooper goal with 15 minutes remaining and a second penalty from Horgan.

Following on from the win over Tipperary a fortnight ago, the result leaves Cork with four points from six and still well in the hunt for a semi-final spot but manager Kieran Kingston will be left disappointed with the level of performance overall.

Early in the first half, with Cork having the elements behind them, things looked to be going to script as Horgan sent over numerous frees from a variety of ranges while Conor Lehane had a pair of neat scores before he was forced to depart injured.

However, two from Allan Devine got Westmeath back in the game and his third on the half-hour cut the gap to three points. When Joey Boyle got on the scoresheet just before half-time and was then fouled for another from Devine, it looked like they would be within one at the break but the free-taker missed and a Tim O’Mahony sideline cut ensured that the Rebels went in leading by 0-8 to 0-5.

Within a minute of the restart, Horgan was fouled in the large rectangle as he contested a Jack O’Connor delivery and when the team captain fired his penalty beyond the dive of Aaron McHugh, it looked like being a decisive blow.

When Devine failed to find the target with another free, Westmeath looked to be listing, but the ball hit a Cork hurley before it went out, giving them a 65. Devine’s effort from that looked to be dropping short but it eluded everybody to result in a goal and then McNicholas left to 1-8 to 1-6.

Immediately after that, things looked worse for Cork as Damien Cahalane was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident but Westmeath’s Boyle received a yellow – his second – in the same episode and so both sides were down to 14.

The home team stayed in it, Horgan’s frees answered by Devine and Westmeath sub Darragh Clinton but on 55 Cooper’s delivery goalwards slipped through McHugh’s hand and into the net for a 2-10 to 1-8 advantage.

While Westmeath replied through Devine and Aonghus Clarke, on the hour-mark Séamus Harnedy was fouled for a second Cork penalty and Horgan once again did the needful, making it 3-10 to 1-10.

As normal time came to an end, Westmeath surged and three frees from Devine brought his tally to 1-8 and left a goal in it, with five minutes of injury time dawning. Unfortunately for them, no chance materialised and Horgan’s eighth point – giving him 2-8 – secured the win.

Scorers for Westmeath: A Devine 1-8 (1-0 65, 0-7 frees), D Clinton, D McNicholas 0-2 each, A Clarke, J Boyle 0-1 each.

Cork: P Horgan 2-8 (2-0 pen, 0-8 f), B Cooper 1-0, C Lehane 0-2, T O’Mahony (sideline), L Meade 0-1 each.

WESTMEATH: A McHugh; C Shaw, T Doyle, A Ennis; A Craig, A Clarke, L Varley; C Boyle, E Price; J Boyle, D McNicholas, R Greville; N Mitchell, A Devine, C Doyle.

Subs: A Cox for Greville (9-12, blood), D Clinton for Mitchell (44), K Doyle for C Doyle (52), Cox for Shaw (55), A McGovern for Greville (58), B Doyle for Ennis (65).

CORK: P Collins (Ballinhassig); S O’Leary-Hayes (Midleton), E Cadogan (Douglas), C Spillane (Castlelyons); T O’Mahony (Newtownshandrum), B Cooper (Youghal), D Cahalane (St Finbarr’s); C O’Leary (Valley Rovers), L Meade (Newcestown); C Lehane (Midleton), P Horgan (Glen Rovers), A Walsh (Kanturk); D Dalton (Fr O’Neills), S Harnedy (St Ita’s), J O’Connor (Sarsfields).

Subs: S Twomey (Courcey Rovers) for Lehane (11, injured), R Downey (Glen Rovers) for Twomey (49), N O’Leary (Castlelyons) for Walsh (52), B Turnbull (Douglas) for O’Connor (60).

Referee: L Gordon (Galway).

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