By Niall Sherry, Sports editor
TJ Returns as Adrian Mullen impresses
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
UPMC Nowlan Park
Derek Lyng’s first Leinster Championship game as Kilkenny senior hurling manager ended in victory as his side made light work of the Westmeath challenge. There were no goals for the crowd in attendance, but the Cats put on a shooting exhibition as they ran out 22-point winners over their Lake County opponents.
The game was already over as a contest when the visitors had Charlie McCormack black-carded following a foul on Adrian Mullen in the 49th minute, as the former captain made for goal.
TJ Reid made his first start of the season in his beloved black and amber, and top scored for the Cats with 0-9 with four lovely points from play in his total. This was the perfect game for the Shamrocks Ballyhale veteran to aclimatise to inter-county action, but both player and manager will know that much sterner tests lie ahead this season.
From the throw-in, the home side dominated, and Joe Fortune’s charges found it impossible to lay a glove on their hosts, as the Kilkenny attacking unit clicked on a dull and damp evening in the Marble City. Five of the starting six forwards scored in the opening ten minutes as the Cats cruised into a 6-point lead. Some smashing points from John Donnelly, Eoin Cody, Dicksboro’s Timmy Clifford and a brace from Adrian Mullen.
Westmeath’s highlight of a disappointing opening period came from Darragh Clinton who sent over a majestic sideline cut just before the 20-minute marker. The home side kept knocking over the points and it took a good save from Westmeath goalkeeper Noel Conaty to prevent skipper Eoin Cody raising a green flag. When Dublin whistler Chris Mooney blew for half-time, the scoreboard in UPMC Nowlan Park read 0-17 to 0-4.
The visitors would only add a further 3 points to their first half total, while their hosts tagged on another 12-points after the short whistle. Westmeath boss Fortune would have hoped for a bit of a kick from his charges in the second half, but they didn’t really lift their first half performance a great deal for the next 35 minutes. TJ Reid opened the second half scoring from the placed ball while Cillian Doyle replied for the Lake County men. They was some wayward shooting after the interval, but Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan split the posts with a fine effort to cement his sides dominance.
Then came the best chance for a major. In the 49th minute Adrian Mullen went on a trademark direct surge through the Westmeath defence, before Charlie McCormack upended the Shamrocks man. Referee Mooney had no hesitation in awarding the penalty and it was double punishment for the visitors as McCormack was shown a black card. With Billy Drennan absent through injury, TJ Reid stepped up and struck his shot, but it was brilliantly saved by Noel Conaty.
TJ then struck 3 points to further build on the Kilkenny lead, the pick of which was a typical ‘TJ point’. He fielded the sliotar brilliantly, turned to his left and rifled the shot between the posts, typical TJ Reid.
Manager Lyng made some changes and got an impact from the bench with Mossy Keoghan and Niall Brennan both getting on the scoresheet. This augmented further scores from John Donnelly, Eoin Cody, and the very impressive Adrian Mullen. Veteran Westmeath legend Derek McNicholas got his team’s second point from play of the second half, but it was merely consolation, as Darragh Corcoran slotted over a point for his first championship score in the black and amber.
With the rain coming down referee Chris Mooney brought proceedings to a close at UPMC Nowlan Park with Derek Lyng’s side claiming maximum points on a scoreline of Kilkenny 0-29, Westmeath 0-7.
Teams and Scorers
Kilkenny- TJ Reid (0-9, three frees and two 65’s), Adrian Mullen (0-6), John Donnelly (0-4), Eoin Cody, Martin Keoghan (0-2 each), David Blanchfield, Padraig Walsh, Darragh Corcoran, Timmy Clifford, Billy Ryan, Niall Brennan (0-1 each)
Westmeath- Ciaran Doyle (0-4, three frees), Joseph Boyle, Darragh Clinton, Derek McNicholas (0-1 each)
Kilkenny- Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Padraig Walsh; Darragh Corcoran, Paddy Mullen; Timmy Clifford, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly; Billy Ryan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.
Subs- Cian Kenny for P.Mullen 46 mins, Martin Keoghan for Ryan 47 mins, Cillian Buckley for P.Walsh 56 mins, Niall Brennan for A.Mullen 61 mins, Conor Delaney for Lawlor 64 mins.
Westmeath- Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Conor Shaw, Johnny Bermingham; Robbie Greville, Tommy Doyle, Aaron Craig; Davy Glennon, Shane McGovern; Shane Clavin, Joseph Boyle, Eoin Keyes; Kevin Regan, Ciaran Doyle, Darragh Clinton.
Subs- Cormac Boyle for McGovern h-t, Charlie McCormack for Clavin h-t, Derek McNicholas for Clinton 48 mins, Jack Gillen for Keyes 56 mins, Gary Greville for Egerton 67 mins.
Referee- Chris Mooney (Dublin)