An unanswered 1-07 in the final quarter enabled Kerry to record a second win in the Joe McDonagh Cup when they eased past a disappointing Westmeath side in TEG Cusack, Mullingar.
The home team had the advantage of a very strong wind in the first half, but Kerry looked the better team with Shane Conway enhancing his reputation as a top class hurler. He scored all of his side's 1-06 in the opening half, the goal a very well-taken score in the tenth minute, while his two points from play were both taken with aplomb.
Westmeath shot seven wides in the first half – compared with their opponents’ three – and some of their shooting was very poor from good positions. Niall O’Brien was their best attacker and he chipped in with two points despite shipping an amount of punishment, while sub Allan Devine undoubtedly bolstered what had been a weak attack.
The Lake County men led by a point at the break (0-10 to 1-06), but it looked totally insufficient given the strength of the wind.
Westmeath suffered a major blow just five minutes into the second half when Niall O’Brien was red carded after the referee consulted his umpires. However, they managed to stay in touch and they trailed by just a point (1-12 to 0-14) by the second water break.
A quality strike from Colm Harty doubled the Kingdom’s advantage before a major turning point arrived with the introduction of Padraig Boyle, and the Ballyduff man scored three points with his first three pucks of the ball to put his side five points clear.
There was no way back for Westmeath at this juncture. The gap was seven points when Shane Nolan pounced for Kerry’s second goal on the hour mark. Conway brought his personal haul to a whopping 1-12 with a late free, and Kerry could afford the luxury of some poor wides and still win by an unflattering 11-point margin.
Kerry: M Stackpoole; J Buckley, B Murphy, E Leen; T O’Connor, J Diggins, F MacKessy; P O’Connor, S Nolan (1-00); B Barrett, D Collins, M O’Leary (0-01); S Conway (1-12, 0-08f), M Boyle, C Harty (0-02).
Subs: M Leane for Barrett (inj., 55), P Boyle (0-03) for O’Leary (57), M O’Connor (0-01) for P O’Connor (59), D Goggin for Collins (68), T Casey for M Boyle (70).
Westmeath: E Skelly; D Egerton, T Doyle, C Shaw; A Craig, A Clarke, J Bermingham; E Price, R Greville (0-02); D McNicholas (0-01), B Murtagh (0-04, 0-03f), C Boyle; N O’Brien (0-02), D Clinton (0-03), S Williams.
Subs: A Devine (0-02) for Price (23), J Boyle for McNicholas (inj., 42), N Mitchell for Murtagh (51), C Doyle for Clinton (58), A Cox for Bermingham (59).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).