Senior Hurling Challenge
Tipperary 3-20 Westmeath 0-13
Tipperary kicked off preparations for the 2014 campaign with an encouraging performance against Westmeath in a senior hurling challenge at The Ragg last Saturday.
Approximately 200 spectators turned out for a fundraiser in aid of the local Inch school on a pleasant December afternoon.
The pitch was in remarkably good condition for the time of year and while Tipp took a while to shrug off a dogged Westmeath, they eventually cantered to a 16-point win.
Kieran McGeeney made his first public appearance with the team, in his new role as performance consultant.
McGeeney, the former Kildare senior football team manager who captained Armagh to the 2002 All-Ireland senior title, is seen as a vital cog in wheel by team manager Eamon O’Shea.
A player who prepared meticulously for matches, McGeeney made his name as a man who would leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of success.
O’Shea will hope that McGeeney’s winning mentality will rub off on Tipp’s players next year, after county board secretary Tim Floyd called for greater levels of intensity and workrate in his annual report.
Encouragingly, Tipp did not let their loyal supporters down last Saturday afternoon as they hassled, harried and hit their opponents hard.
Westmeath didn’t back down either and ensured that the game remained competitively until early in the second half, when Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher cracked home his second goal.
Those present will have been interested in viewing the new players on show, as O’Shea runs the rule over an extended winter training squad.
James Logue was named in goals, following the retirement of Brendan Cummins, and while a couple of loose puckouts led to Westmeath points, the Ballingarry man acquitted himself well.
At right corner back, Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill) turned in a very tidy hour, with Cappawhite’s Tom Treacy picking off a point from play in the first half.
Seamus Kennedy (St Marys) partnered Brendan Maher at midfield and up front, there were run-outs for David Collins (Drom & Inch), Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan) and Conor Kenny (Borrisoleigh).
All four of the new forwards managed to get on the scoresheet, with Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher netting a goal in each half.
Kenny scored Tipp’s other goal, in the eleventh minute, as the recruit from Kildare took a pass from Maher before drilling an unstoppable rising drive past Westmeath goalkeeper Peter Collins.
Ballina’s Steven O’Brien, a dual All-Ireland minor medallist, also came off the bench to impress and Loughmore-Castleiney’s Liam McGrath picked off a point too.
Brendan Maher did not appear for the second half after appearing to ship an ankle injury in the first half but his withdrawal was presumably a precautionary move as he was soon linking up with his teammates in the Premier County dugout.
All in all, this was a worthwhile exercise from Tipp’s perspective, although Westmeath manager Brian Hanley did indicate that he had travelled without a number of his best players.
Laois had been pencilled in to provide the opposition for Tipp but the O’Moore men pulled out just days before the game.
That left Hanley scrambling to put a travelling squad together but the Midlanders had eye-catching displays from Niall O’Brien and captain Eoin Price, while Thomas Doyle was solid at full-back.
For Tipp, the level of opposition will go up a notch when Wexford travel to Clonmel next Saturday (December 14) for another pre-season challenge.
Tipp led by 2-9 to 0-9 against Westmeath at half-time and when referee Anthony Stapleton blew his final whistle, Seamus Callanan had scored 0-9 for Tipp, including six frees.
Scorers for Tipperary: Patrick Maher 2-1, S Callanan 0-9 (6f), C Kenny 1-2, D Collins & D Maher 0-2 each, T Treacy, T Gallagher, L McGrath & S O’Brien 0-1 each.
Tipperary: James Logue (Ballingarry); Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Paddy Stapleton (Borrisoleigh); James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Tom Treacy (Cappawhite); Seamus Kennedy (St Marys, Clonmel), Brendan Maher (Borrisoleigh); David Collins (Drom & Inch), Seamus Callanan (Drom & Inch), Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields); Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan), Conor Kenny (Borrisoleigh), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha). Subs: Steven O’Brien (Ballina) for Collins (27), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) for B Maher (h.t.), D Collins for Callanan (50).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois).