So far, the 2017 hurling championship has seen it’s fair share of upsets. Westmeath were very close to blowing these upsets well and truly out of the water before the reigning All-Ireland champions eventually won by 2-18 to 0-15.
When the draw was made last Monday morning, no tie seemed a more foregone conclusion than this. All-Ireland champions Tipperary were simply going to annihilate Westmeath. It was a certainty.
With the Premier racing into an early 1-9 to 0-4 lead, it seemed as though the status quo would remain. Michael Ryan (The Westmeath version) and his side had other plans.
The Leinster side fought back to narrow the gap at the break to 1-10 to 0-9. Still, we expected the All-Ireland champions to edge away in the second half. We were wrong again.
Westmeath managed to pluck away at the Premier men for a further 20 minutes in the second half. With 52 minutes gone, the scores saw Westmeath just 1 goal behind.
With the scores ever so close in the second half, Tipperary manager Michael Ryan decided to make some big calls.
Attacking ace Seamus Callanan and Michael Breen were withdraw with roughly 15 minutes played in the second half. John McGrath and Jason Forde were introduced and quickly hit the scoreboard.
Further big names were also withdrawn, such as Bonner Maher and team captain Padraig Maher were also substituted.
Luckily for Tipperary, a late rally saw them drift into a late lead that wouldn’t be surrendered.A late goal by John McGrath saved some of Tipperary’s blushes. They ran out victorious on a scoreline of 2-18 to 0-15.
The question now is where do the All-Ireland champions go from here? Clearly, there are some issues that need ironing out here.
A huge improvement will be needed if they are to reach this year’s All-Ireland quarter finals. They most certainly have the talent, but something is clearly not clicking this year.
Westmeath on the other hand, Westmeath are a hurling county on a serious upward spiral. With last year’s famous u21 victory over Kilkenny, followed up by today’s inspirational effort, things can only get better.
With the hurling competition extremely limited, it is highly encouraging to see this progression. There is clearly huge potential in this county and we must tip our hats to Michael Ryan and everyone involved in Westmeath hurling.