Kilkenny 1-23 Westmeath 1-16
St Kieran’s College star of last seaon, John Power, brother of senior player, Richie, was the hero of the hour when Kilkenny saw off detrermined Westmeath in this lively Walsh Cup senior hurling tournament semi-final in Castlecomer yesterday.
Power reeled off four points during the closing five minutes, and boosted by another from Ger Aylward, 14-man Kilkenny sneaked through for a showdown with Galway next Sunday.
Power drilled home a goal 30 seconds into the closing half to help Kilkenny open out a commanding 11-point lead (1-15 to 0-7) and it looked like Westmeath were dead and buried. However, home defender, Eamon Walsh was dismissed in the 41st minute for a second yellow card offence, and all of a sudden the dynamic of the game changed and Westmeath stormed back.
Eight minutes from the end Westmeath, thanks to an uninterrupted flow of points from free taker Brendan Murtagh, Cormac Boyle, Andrew Mitchell and Dan Carty, had the deficit back to a pair of points and the game was there for the taking.
The home side caught hold of the match again when John Power pointed a free in the 65th minute, their first score in nearly quarter of an hour. That pointed lifted the pressure, and Kilkenny roared away again to tack on four more points while keeping the opposition scorelss to run out handsome winners.
Again Kilkenny chose to field a Development Squad side. Manager, Richie Mulrooney, must have been thrilled with his players, particularly the way they opened and finished. The winners hurling during the opening 20 minutes or so was superb and they constantly sliced open the opposition with fast movement of the ball.
After Paul O’Flynn opened the scoring in the second minute, the winners added six more without reply before Westmeath got off the mark through Brendan Murtagh with a converted free in the 16th minute (0-7 to 0-1). The losers looked way out of their depth, but a pair of points together from Brendan Murtagh nearing the end of the half, gave them some hjope when they went in for the rest 0-6 to 0-14 behind.
When Power cracked home a terrific goal for Kilkenny within seconds of the restart to sent them on their way to an 11 point advantage, it looked like Westmeath were dead and buried. The sening off changed the dynamic of the match, and the losers stormed back in great style.
However, when the pressure was most intense the Cats lifted their game, and John Power inspired them what was a very good win.
Scorers: Kilkenny: J. Power (1-8, 0-6 frees); M. Bergin (0-4); G. Aylward (0-3); P. O’Flynn, C. Buckley, M. Aylward (0-2 each); L. Harney, P. Walsh (0-1 each). Westmeath: B. Murtagh (1-10, 1-8 frees); A Mitchell (0-3, one free); D. Fennell, C. Boyle, D. Carty (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - D. Walsh; J. Corcoran, E. Walsh, B. Kennedy; P. Walsh, W. Phelan, J. Holden; C. Buckley, D. McCormack; P. O’Flynn, L. Harney, M. Bergin; M. Aylward, J. Power, G. Aylward. Subs: M. Gaffney for O’Flynn ht; C. Tobin for D. McCormack 46th min; S. Phelan for Holden 46th min; R. Reid for M Aylward 56th min
Westmeath: C. Scally; P. Fennelly, A. Price, C. Jordan; D. Fennell, E. Price, P. Gilseain; P. Dowdall, C. Boyle; A. Mitchell, F. Boyle, P. Greville; D. Higgins, B. Murtagh, J. Shaw. Subs: A. Dermody for D. Higgins 22nd min; D. Carty for C. Boyle 55th min; J. Gilligan for A. Dermody 55th min; D. McCormack for Gilseain 57th min.
Referee - P Murphy (Carlow).