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Super Saffrons set the bar high in Walsh Cup

Antrim 1-18 Westmeath 0-12

By Gerry Buckley

Antrim's senior hurlers got their 2017 campaign off to an impressive start with a somewhat surprising nine-point win over Westmeath in the opening round of the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup at Kinnegad yesterday.

The visitors were full value for their win and restricted Michael Ryan's Westmeath side to a paltry three points following the interval and following some testing times for the small ball game in Antrim in recent years, this win will be most welcome to Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton and his management team.

It was the Lake County who settled the quicker and the lively Allan Devine fired over their opening score in the second minute. The impressive Niall McKenna equalised for the visitors before Aonghus Clarke and Conor Johnston exchanged scores.

Westmeath hit a purple patch and sent over a quintet of points from Daragh Egerton, Jack Galvin and three fine scores from Devine.

Antrim got themselves back into the game and the sides were level with half-time approaching as the Saffrons sent over some quality efforts through McKenna, Neil McManus, Ciaran Clarke (free) and Conor Johnston. In the last act of the opening half, Clarke fired over to give his side a slender one-point advantage at the interval, 0-10 to 0-9.

Antrim really took the game to their opponents and by the midway point of the second half had extended their advantage to five points through scores from Maoi Connolly, Eoghan Campbell, Daniel McKernan and Johnston.

Westmeath did briefly rally and substitute Brendan Murtagh fired over a point.

The talented Ciaran Clarke made no mistake in the 66th minute with his goal effort as he duly finished with aplomb.

A classy McKenna point closed out the scoring as Antrim ensured the victory.

Antrim: C O'Connell; S Rooney, J Dillon, P Burke; S McCrory, N McAuley, C McKinley; E Campbell (0-3), D McKernan (0-2); N McManus (0-2), C McCann, M Connolly (0-1); C Clarke 1-3 (3f), N McKenna (0-3), C Johnston (0-4). Subs: K McKeague for Burke (14), P McGill for Connolly (44).

Westmeath: S McGovern; S Power, C Shaw, K Duncan; A Craig, L Varley, A McGrath; A Clarke (0-1), E Price; J Boyle, P Scally, E Corrigan; J Galvin (0-2), A Devine 0-7 (4f), D Egerton (0-1). Subs: N Mitchell for Scally, and G Greville for Duncan (both h/t), W Casserly for Corrigan (45), B Murtagh (0-1) for Boyle (57). Referee: K Brady (Louth).

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