O'Byrne Cup: O'Brien opens Royal reign with a win

January 04, 2009

Westmeath's Dermot Bannon tries to dispossess Meath's Barry Regan during the O'Byrne Cup clash at Pairc Tailteann
Meath 1-17 Westmeath 0-7 Eamonn O'Brien's tenure as Meath manager opened with an emphatic O'Byrne Cup win over neighbours Westmeath at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday. Meath started with just five of the side that began their last competitive outing, against Limerick in the All-Ireland qualifiers last July, but the visitors were in more experimental mode and apart from a bright opening quarter were second best in this 'derby' clash. Tomas O Flatharta's men hit five points at the town end before Meath got off the mark and after leading by 0-7 to 1-2 after 21 minutes failed to register again. Meath posted 15 unanswered points in the time remaining and by the end seven players got off the mark for the home side who face an away day against Kildare in round two next Sunday. The new experimental rules were in operation and Shane McAnarney was the only player yellow-carded. The Clann na nGael clubman was sanctioned in the 34th minute for a challenge on Westmeath's Joe Clarke. Meath were leading by the minimum margin, 1-5 to 0-7, at that point and McAnarney had been one of their better performers. There were no more scores in the opening period and it was the home side who kicked on from the resumption adding five points within ten minutes of the restart. The fear of conceding yellow cards seemed to concentrate the minds of players on both sides. However, it could be argued that Westmeath's Declan McGuinness could have received such a sanction for denying David Bray a goal-scoring opportunity within seconds of the restart at the expense of a penalty which Joe Sheridan pointed. One of the best moves of the game involving Damien Sheridan, Stephen and David Bray end with the impressive Graham Reilly pointing to leave it 1-10 to 0-7 after 45 minutes. Moments later the Bray brothers combined but Eoin Reilly sent low and narrowly wide. The two thousand plus crowd was understandably subdued what little fizz that was in the fixture flattened out. One of the biggest cheers of the half greeted substitute Jamie Queeney's opening point. The Na Fianna clubman collected a long clearance from goalkeeper Patrick O'Rourke and his delivery from under the main stand hopped over the bar to leave it 1-15 to 0-7 after 65 minutes. Shortly after he was denied a goal by a smart save from Westmeath 'keeper Cathal Mullin. Westmeath settled quickly and points from Declan McGuinness, Dermot Bannon, Enda Leonard, Peter Tormey (free) and Paul Kelly (free) left it 0-5 to 0-0 after 14 minutes. Meath capitalised on a slip by Westmeath's Joe Clarke with Eoin Reilly and Stephen Bray (who received his award as Meath Supporters Club player of 2008 after the game) combining for Cian Ward to net from close range in the 16th minute. Within two minutes the scores were tied for the first time with Joe Sheridan fisting a point after his goal attempt was stopped by the advancing Mullin before the hard-grafting Graham Reilly levelled matters. Westmeath responded positively with Tormey (free) and Paul Bannon pointing but they failed to add to their tally in the time remaining and now travel to Wexford for an O'Byrne Shield fixture next Sunday. Meath - P. O'Rourke; S. McAnarney, A. Collins, E. Harrington; S. Kenny, B. Regan, T. Skelly; M. Ward, D. Sheridan; D. Bray (0-1, free), E. Reilly (0-2), G. Reilly (0-3); S. Bray (0-2), J. Sheridan (0-2, 1 penalty), C. Ward (1-5, 0-5 frees). Subs - S. McKenna for McAnarney (yellow card, 35 mins), J. Queeney (0-2) for E. Reilly (57 mins), M. Kennedy for D. Sheridan, D. Flood for Collins (both 64 mins), T. Johnson for S. Bray (66 mins). Westmeath - C. Mullin; A. Claffey, B. Murphy, F. Boyle; K. Scally, J. Clarke, D. McGuinness (0-1); A. Browne, P. Bannon (0-1); P. Kelly (0-1, free), E. Leonard (0-1), D. Harte; P. Tormey (0-2, frees), D. Bannon (0-1), K. Martin. Subs - D. O'Donoghue for Clarke (41 mins), M. Dalton for Boyle 45 mins), T. McDaniel for D. Bannon (52 mins), D. Kilmartin for McGuinness (53 mins), E. Farrell for Scally (57 mins), F. Spollen for Martin (66 mins). Referee - T. Quigley (Wexford).

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