Despite producing a somewhat lethargic display in the first half, Tipperary ultimately had their expected facile win in perfect conditions for hurling in Mullingar this afternoon, with 13 players making the winners' scoresheet.
Tipperary were 0-02 to 0-00 ahead after just 50 seconds via Michael Breen and Seamus Callanan, but they shot nine wides in the first quarter, some of them very poor efforts from good positions. However, they still led by 0-07 to 0-04 at the first water break.
Jason Forde’s '65’ increased their lead shortly after the resumption of play and it was 0-11 to 0-04 when Robbie Greville scored his second outstanding point for the home team.
Liam Sheedy’s men went ten points clear when John McGrath’s 32nd minute goal effectively ended any chance of Westmeath repeating their sensational wins at the same venue in 1983 and 1985 (the last two occasions that the counties had met in the National Hurling League in Mullingar).
Tipperary’s wide total was a worrying 11 by half-time (to Westmeath’s three), but they were well in control when 11 points clear at the interval (1-15 to 0-07), their last brace of points coming from Forde bringing his first half tally to 0-06.
Both sides shot a wide at either end within 80 seconds of the resumption. Impressive sub Darragh Clinton then scored two great points for Shane O’Brien’s charges, either side of another Forde free, but a spell in the sin bin for Darragh Egerton and a resultant penalty conversion by Forde put Tipperary ahead by 2-16 to 0-09 with 42 minutes elapsed.
Six minute later, Forde pounced for a well-taken goal and he was replaced moments later. Robert Byrne picked up a needless red card in the 49th minute, but Tipperary comfortably led by 3-21 to 0-11 at the second water break.
Westmeath continued to battle away manfully and were unlucky not to find the net in the 55th minute when Ciaran Doyle’s shot was taken off the line. Three Tipperary subs, Alan Flynn, Mark Kehoe and Jake Morris, chipped in with a brace of points apiece, and Kehoe rounded off the scoring with a great goal in added-time.
Tipperary: B Hogan; C Barrett, P Maher, B Heffernan (0-02); R Byrne, B Maher (0-01), B McGrath; M Breen (0-02), P Cadell (0-02); D McCormack (0-01), N McGrath (0-01), W Connors (0-01); J McGrath (1-01), S Callanan (0-01), J Forde (2-07, 1-00pen, 0-04fs, 0-01'65').
Subs: J Morris (0-03, 0-01f) for Forde (42), A Flynn (0-02) for McCormack (42), P Flynn (0-01) for N McGrath (48), C Morgan for Heffernan (48), M Kehoe (1-02) for J McGrath (54), J Quigley for Barrett (54).
Westmeath: N Conaty; D Egerton, T Gallagher, C Shaw; A Craig, T Doyle, P Scally; C Boyle (0-01), R Greville (0-02); A Clarke, K Doyle (0-03, 0-03fs), J Boyle; J Coll, N Mitchell, C Doyle (0-05, 0-04fs).
Subs: D McNicholas (0-02, 0-01f) for K Doyle (inj., 27), D Clinton (0-03) for Coll (30), K Regan for Scally (50), A Cox for Clarke (53), S Clavin for C Boyle (69), E Ahearn for C Doyle (69).
Referee: L Gordon (Galway).