Carlow take Division 2A hurling title15/04/2012 - 17:46:34
Carlow 1-14 Westmeath 0-12
Carlow claimed the National Hurling League Division 2A title and gained promotion after Westmeath’s challenge petered out at Nowlan Park this afternoon.
Westmeath finished with 13 men following the dismissals of Paul Greville and John Gilligan, with substitute Martin Clowry’s 68th-minute goal wrapping up the Carlow win.
A low-scoring, tightly-contested first half saw Kevin Ryan’s Barrowsiders build a 0-6 to 0-4 lead.
Niall O’Brien impressed in attack for Westmeath, but Carlow kept on course with Shane Kavanagh, Paudie Kehoe and Andrew Gaule landing key scores.
Leading marksman Brendan Murtagh and captain Paddy Dowdall started for Westmeath despite doubts over their fitness.
The Lakesiders lost their only group game in this year’s league to Carlow, going down 2-17 to 1-16 at Dr Cullen Park last month. Murtagh scored 1-10 that day, while Carlow substitute Ross Smithers scored 2-2.
Marty Kavanagh, a late inclusion in the Carlow side for the divisional decider, had an early free disallowed before Darren McCormack opened the scoring for Westmeath.
Both sides were guilty of some poor wides in an end-to-end first quarter, and defenders Alan Corcoran and John Gilligan produced two cracking clearances.
Carlow’s first point arrived in the 15th minute through Jack Kavanagh, but Murtagh replied and Paul Greville had a goal chance snuffed out as Westmeath began to press.
A brace from Marty Kavanagh sandwiched McCormack’s second score as Carlow got back on terms at 0-3 apiece by the 22nd minute.
Kevin Ryan’s charges edged ahead thanks to a long range score from joint captain Shane Kavanagh.
Another pinpoint placed ball followed for Carlow, but Westmeath snapped it back to a one-point game as Niall O’Brien caught Philip Gilsenan’s delivery and slotted over.
Craig Doyle delighted the vocal Carlow support by registering his side’s sixth point, giving them a two-point interval buffer that they just about deserved.
But wayward shooting at the start of the second half did little for the Barrowsiders’ confidence, especially with the breeze behind them.
Murtagh made it a one-point game before Marty Kavanagh had a bad miss when Westmeath were fortunate to avoid conceding the opening goal.
Although Doyle registered another wide, his team-mate Shane Kavanagh was on target with a long range effort to leave it 0-7 to 0-5.
Centre-back Kavanagh was then involved in the build-up to a terrific score from Andrew Gaule as the lead was widened to three points.
Westmeath corner forward O’Brien, taking over the free-taking duties, struck a quick brace to reduce the margin to the minimum again - 0-8 to 0-7.
Carlow strengthened their attack with the introduction of Mark Brennan, who also made an impact off the bench in the group clash.
The table toppers found an extra gear with Paudie Kehoe pointing twice and Daryl Roberts also splitting the posts.
Gaule tagged on his second point and Westmeath, struggling to stay in touch at 0-12 to 0-7 down, then lost the services of Paul Greville.
The wing forward picked up his second yellow card for striking, having been put under pressure by a poor pass from Murtagh.
14-man Westmeath responded strongly though approaching the hour mark, keeping in touch with an excellent sideline cut from O’Brien and a snappy shot from Murtagh.
The three-point margin remained as Murtagh and Doyle exchanged points, yet Westmeath’s fight back was further hampered by a straight red for wing back Gilligan.
Brian Hanley’s side showed great resilience in an exciting finale. Carlow net minder Frank Foley had to be on his toes to deny a determined Murtagh, and O’Brien did well to convert a ‘65’.
But their hopes of a comeback win were dashed by Clowry’s goal which crowned a famous day for the Carlow hurlers.
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