After many years of trying – 33, in fact – Westmeath have finally been lifted into the top tiers of the National Hurling League, after they saw off Kerry in the Division 2A final in Cusack Park, Ennis today.
A fine performance from Raharney’s Killian Doyle saw Joe Quaid’s charges record a 0-12 to 0-10, battling back from a 0-9 to 0-4 deficit at the break, and ensuring that Westmeath will compete in Division 1B next year.
Not since the mid-1980s, when David Kilcoyne and Michael Cosgrave tormented the likes of Kilkenny, have Westmeath scaled such heights in the NHL.
With Shane Conway on target, the Kingdom – who lost to Westmeath in Tralee during the round-robin stage – came out on top in a first half hampered by freezing, blustery conditions, and in which referee Rory McGann had to withdraw through injury.
With the wind on Westmeath’s backs in the second half, Darragh Clinton started the revival with a point, before scores from Allan Devine, Doyle (4) and Derek McNicholas set the Aonghus Clarke-skippered hurlers on their way to more silverware, to add to the Kehoe Cup won in January.
“It might only sink in when the draw for the league comes out next year,” said Quaid at full time, when asked what the win means for Westmeath. “This is what we wanted. We’ll enjoy the cup, but the prize is Westmeath coming out of the draw in Division 1 playing Limerick, Galway, Cork, Tipp or whoever it is.
“I couldn’t be more delighted for those lads. It was a fantastic effort, not just what they gave to the game today, but what they gave themselves. It isn’t just about the management team; we’re only there as facilitators.
“But what they’ve done today for themselves and for their county and families is absolutely huge.”
Aaron McHugh; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville, Conor Shaw; Cormac Boyle, Shane Clavin; Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle (0-6, 2f), Robbie Greville; Allan Devine (0-1f), Darragh Clinton (0-1), Niall Mitchell (0-3f). Subs: Derek McNicholas (0-1) for Mitchell (44), Jack Galvin for Clinton (52), Aaron Craig for P Greville (67), Ciaran Doyle for J Boyle (72).
John B O’Halloran; Sean Weir, Bryan Murphy, James O’Connor; Paud Costello, Jason Diggins, Fionan Mackessy; Daniel Collins (0-1), Brandon Barrett; Michael O’Leary, Shane Conway (0-6, 4f), Padraig Boyle (0-2); Jack Goulding (0-1, s/l), Michael Boyle, Jordan Conway. Subs: Dan Goggin for M Boyle (50), Tomas O’Connor for Costello (62), Daithí Griffin for J Conway (66), John Buckley for Weir (72).
Rory McGann (Clare, inj., replaced by Nathan Wall (Cork)).