/ GAA

Westmeath 2-15 Kildare 0-13

Updated: Sunday, 05 Aug 2007 17:29

John Shaw celebrates scoring Westmeath's first goal
John Shaw celebrates scoring Westmeath's first goal

First half goals from John Shaw and Andrew Mitchell gave Westmeath enough breathing space to secure their second Christy Ring Cup title in three years.

Kildare were completely overrun early on by the Lakesiders' slick forward play in wet and slippery conditions at Croke Park.

Shaw (15 minutes) and Mitchell (23) both found the net as Westmeath built up a 2-07 to 0-03 interval lead.

The victors moved 13 points clear before Kildare fought back with free-taker Billy White leading their scoring with 0-07.

Using the experience of their 2005 final win over Down, Westmeath were the quicker to adapt to both the occasion and the conditions.

Seamus Qualter's side, conquerors of Down, Mayo, Kerry and Carlow in this year's competition, got off the mark in the second minute when Derek McNicholas pointed with a neat 'over the shoulder' shot.

The Kildare team bus broke down on the way to GAA headquarters and the omens were certainly not good as Westmeath motored into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead thanks to scores from Andrew Mitchell (free), Barry Kennedy and Pat Clarke.

Kildare were playing some good hurling and getting their share of possession but time and again the Westmeath backs, whose efforts were typified by their centre-back and captain Darren McCormack, were able to prevent scores or force wides.

Oisin Lynch did get out in front of his marker in the fourth-minute to notch Kildare's first point but he was the Lilywhites' only scorer from play in the entire first half as Ben Dorney's men failed to show the form which saw them tally up 4-77 in the group stages.

A superb flick through from Kennedy played in Shaw for his goal on the quarter-hour, with the 2005 captain's stinging shot leaving Kildare goalkeeper Conor Cunningham with no chance. White replied before Daniel Carty, one of Westmeath's best players on the day, sent over the first of his five points from play.

Cunningham and defender Ronan Tynan, one of three Tipperary men in the Kildare team, will not want to review the footage of Mitchell's major.

The Kildare stopper gave Tynan a suicidal hand-pass on the edge of his square and a thunderous shoulder challenge from Kennedy knocked the sliotar from Tynan's grasp and allowed Mitchell fire the loose ball past the stranded Cunningham and to the empty net.

In truth, Westmeath's attack made it look easy and the likes of Carty and Mitchell defied the Dublin rain to take some clinical scores. Mitchell's goal had the inaugural champions 2-05 to 0-02 ahead and they continued to dominate as the first half came to a close, only conceding another white flag to Lynch.

With the fit-again Enda Loughlin, arguably the best hurler Westmeath have produced in recent years, being sprung from the bench, Qualter's outfit looked even stronger as they added points through Carty, after a good set-up from Brendan Murtagh, and the same player scored again as his 28th-minute shot just cleared the crossbar.

Kildare free-taker White did have a couple of chances to reduce the growing gap but he was off target as the Lilywhites ended the half with a total of nine wides. The deficit would have been more but for a fine save from Cunningham, in injury-time, as he blocked a Paddy Dowdall shot.

Westmeath notched four of the second half's first five points through Carty, Mitchell (free), Loughlin and Shaw to press home their advantage on the scoreboard – they were now 2-11 to 0-04 ahead with White providing the only resistance.

The Kildare midfielder had plenty of chances to score in the second period as Westmeath conceded a total of 21 frees over the 70 minutes and he scored three times between the 43rd and 48th minutes to reduce the arrears to 2-12 to 0-07.

Points from Shaw and Carty were replied to by Kildare wing forward Paddy O'Brien, who struck a brace of frees before getting injured. Kildare were having their best spell of the match as they tagged on a further three points through substitute Mattie Dowd and White (two frees) to make it an eight-point game (2-14 to 0-12).

Yet the importance of those goals really hit home then as that cushion allowed Westmeath to see out the win without any great difficulty. Kennedy slung over their final point in the 62nd-minute, taking advantage as his marker slipped, and try as they might – they had two close-in frees stopped on the goal-line – Kildare failed in their valiant late goal hunt.

Kildare substitute Dara Nolan registered the game's final score with a well-taken point as Westmeath, acknowledged by opposing manager Dorney as 'the better team on the day', deservedly held on for an encouraging victory.

Kildare: C Cunningham; T Finnerty, P Reidy, R Tynan; D Harney, D Kennedy, M Maloney; C Buggy (capt), B White (0-07, 6f); K Divilly, T Spain, P O'Brien (0-02, 2f); B Byrne, A McAndrew, O Lynch (0-02).

Subs used: J Doran for Tynan (23 mins), R Hoban for Spain (half-time), B Coulston for Divilly, M Dowd (0-01) for Byrne (both 47), D Nolan (0-01) for O’Brien (58)

Westmeath: M Briody; N Gavin, P Greville, C Jordan; P Dowdall, D McCormack (capt), B Connaughton; J Shaw (1-02), P Clarke (0-01); R Whelan, B Murtagh, A Mitchell (1-03, 0-03f); B Kennedy (0-02), D McNicholas (0-01), D Carty (0-05).

Subs used: E Loughlin (0-01) for Whelan (26 mins), A Price for Gavin (37), J Clarke for P Clarke (54), B Smyth for Murtagh (66), C Murtagh for Connaughton (70+1.)

Referee: John Sexton (Cork).