Well TJ Reid was back in a Kilkenny jersey for the first time under Derek Lyng, as Westmeath came to The Marble City for the Championship opener.
Minds were cast back to last year’s fixture in Cusack Park, where The Cats burst five goals passed Westmeath keeper Conor Bracken who was making his Championship debut. TJ Reid got a total of 1-04 on the day, and with Billy Drennan suffering an injury, there is no better man to be standing over the frees. It was John Donnelly though, not TJ Reid, who got the first score of the game after Eoin Cody provided him with the assist. Cody himself would take the next point himself though before his clubmate Adrien Mullen got the next with The Cats establishing a three-point lead after three minutes.
Timmy Clifford was up next to claim his very first-ever Senior Championship score, with the space and gaps being exploited very well by Derek Lyng’s side. Joe Boyle stopped the streak of conceding after six minutes but Adrien Mullen immediately replied, to stomp out any chance of back-to-back scores for Westmeath. He then grabbed his hat trick of points after 9 minutes. Despite the score, it was fairly pedestrian stuff in the wet and dreary UPMC Nowlan Park.
TJ Reid got in on the action next after there was a foul on Eoin Cody. The Shamrocks man stood in the familiar position, rising the ball and striking over the bar to claim his first, but most certainly not his last of the game. Padraig Walsh kept the scoring going with the game looking dead and buried quite early on. TJ double up his scores again, with John Donnelly doing the same straight after. TJ Reid made it 11, with his first from play before Darragh Clinton got Westmeath’s second score, with a brilliantly struck line ball. After twenty minutes and another David Blanchfield point, it was Kilkenny 11 Westmeath 02.
The third point for The Lake County came from just outside the 45-metre line and the hands of Ciaran Doyle before both teams traded scores with Mullen, Doyle, and Reid raising the white flag. With Mullen, Reid, and Donnelly compounding the misery before the referee blew his halftime whistle.
Half Time: Kilkenny 0-17 Westmeath 0-04
The second half was hard to be amped up for, especially after Kilkenny opened up the scoring with a TJ Reid point from a free. Cillian Doyle did the same for himself with eight minutes gone in the tepid half. Kilkenny had a goal chance after it, maybe their fourth of the game, but poor decision-making left the forward line still searching for the net. Billy Ryan found the sky though, hitting the second Kilkenny point of the last 35.
There was a huge chance for a goal though, with the great TJ Reid looking to burst the onion net from a penalty. The foul was dubious enough, however, Noel Conaty in the goalmouth pulled off a fantastic save to deny the six-time all-star. No goal, but three points from TJ came in quick succession, with one point, in particular, standing out as the 6’2 Reid hopped high into the air to pick the ball out of the sky before finding the space in between the posts.
The rain started to pour, as Kilkenny supporters began leaving UPMC Nowlan Park. Mossy Keoghan looked to stake his claim in the side after coming off from the bench to get his first of the game. Donnelly, Cody, and Mullen added to their scorecard, with Derek McNicholas getting Westmeath’s second point from play. There were more first-time championship scorers, this time Lisdowney’s Niall Brennan and Shamrock’s Darragh Corcoran will always be able to say they scored for their home county in a Championship game.
The ref announced three minutes of added time, with both sides trading scores before the full-time whistle.
Half Time: Kilkenny 0-29 Westmeath 0-07