Wexford eased to a 2-23 to 1-15 Allianz Hurling League Division 1 win against Westmeath at TEG Cusack Park.
There was no repeat of the shock draw between the two teams in last year's Leinster championship round-robin tie, with a wasteful Wexford side not flattered by an 11-point win in Mullingar.
Westmeath, who showed huge improvement from their opening game against Clare in Ennis a week ago, put in a fine display in the opening half where the biggest lead was three points [Wexford were in front by 0-11 to 0-08 after half an hour].
Shane McGovern opened the scoring after a minute, but Lee Chin - who was somewhat inconsistent from placed balls and was withdrawn before the second half due to a tight hamstring - converted two frees to nudge the visitors ahead.
Westmeath, under the tutelage of Wexford native Joe Fortune, went on to score some outstanding points from play, none more so than a sublime overhead pull from 2022 All Star nominee Killian Doyle in the 13th minute. They deservedly led by 0-05 to 0-03 with 13 minutes gone.
The Slaneysiders were wasteful in the first half, shooting nine wides, some of them from good positions.
However, they still did enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over, with five of their starting six forwards getting on the scoresheet before the interval.
A Chin free in the 31st minute opened up the first three-point gap, but a point apiece from Niall O'Brien and Doyle [a free with the last puck of the half] left the scoreboard at the interval reading, Wexford 0-11 Westmeath 0-10.
Rory Higgins became the sixth Wexford forward to score when he doubled his team’s lead within three minutes of the resumption of play. However, Darragh Egan’s men continued to be profligate and they shot three of their 10 second-half wides in the opening five minutes.
The visitors still led by two points [0-13 to 0-11] when Conor McDonald netted in the 45th minute, after Liam Óg McGovern’s initial shot had come back off the crossbar. The home team responded in the best possible fashion when Owen McCabe scored their first goal of 2023, after firing blanks in three Walsh Cup games and the heavy loss to Clare.
Wexford replied almost instantly when impressive half-time sub Ross Banville [who successfully took over the free-taking duties from Chin] flicked the sliotar to the net from close range in the 51st minute, more or less removing the possibility of a surprise result.
From that juncture right to the end, the winners found scores a little easier to come by without ever looking likely to score a third goal.
To deepen Westmeath's frustration, Killian Doyle’s afternoon ended early when he picked up a second yellow card at the end of normal time.
Wexford: M Fannning; I Carty (0-01), D Reck, C Devitt; D Clarke, C Foley, S Donohoe; D O’Keeffe, L Chin (0-05, 0-04fs); C Hearne (0-03), L Óg McGovern (0-01), C McGuckin (0-02); C Dunbar (0-02), C McDonald (1-02), R Higgins (0-02).
Subs: R Banville (1-03, 0-03fs) for Chin (inj., h-t), K Foley for O’Keeffe (54), J O’Connor for Carty (57), C Byrne (0-02) for McGovern (59), M Dwyer for McDonald (67).
Westmeath: N Conaty; C Shaw, T Doyle, J Galvin; A Craig, R Greville (0-01), D Egerton; S McGovern (0-01), D Glennon (0-01); S Clavin, K Doyle (0-09, 0-08fs), N O’Brien (0-02); O McCabe (1-00), J Boyle (0-01), K Regan.
Subs: C Doyle for Regan (50), J Bermingham for Clavin (56), S Williams for Glennon (63), G Greville for Craig (63), P Maxwell for McGovern (68).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).
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