Westmeath book place in the big time

Westmeath 1-23 Down 2-18

Injury-time points from Enda Loughlin and Killian Cosgrove secured the inaugural Christy Ring Cup title for Westmeath today, as well as promotion to next year's All-Ireland SHC proper.

An eighth free from Down's Martin Coulter tantalisingly levelled things up for the seventh time at the end of normal time, but Seamus Qualter's midlanders showed the greater hunger by closing out the win.

Coulter, who missed a 28th-minute goal chance, bagged five first half points, yet the Ulster men trailed 0-9 to 0-12 at the break at Croke Park. A late trio of points from Barry Kennedy, Andrew Mitchell and Loughlin saw to that.

Down quickly levelled on the restart before full-forward Gareth "Magic" Johnson scooped home the rebound of a Coulter shot, blocked initially by Mark Briody, to the Westmeath net for the lead.

Then, after Westmeath had pushed on for an 0-18 to 1-14 buffer, their captain John Shaw capitalised on a Graham Clarke mistake to bat home a 53rd-minute goal.

Stephen Clarke almost single-handedly brought Down back within a point. He fired in a great goal on 64 minutes before pointing two minutes later for a 2-17 to 1-21 deficit.

However, tireless midfielder Loughlin and teenage sensation Cosgrove had the final say as Qualter's men also secured an October 24 trip to New York for the "away" final.

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