Westmeath 3-14 Louth 0-16
Westmeath advanced to a Leinster SFC quarter-final date with Wexford, following a seven-point win over Louth in Drogheda this afternoon.
In wet conditions, Westmeath were on top for the most part, with just a point separating the sides at half-time, but the visitors drove on after the restart, with goals from Callum McCormack, Ray Connellan and Shane Dempsey.
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin handed Championship debuts to four players, with Killian Daly, Paddy Holloway, John Stapleton and Shane Dempsey all lining out for the first time in the heat of a Leinster Championship battle.
Cribbin was also forced to make a change to the starting line-up, with Paul Sharry ruled out with a hamstring injury, and John Egan taking his place.
The visitors started brightly, with Ray Connellan firing their opening score after 30 seconds, but the Lake County struggled in the opening 10 minutes, as Louth got on top.
The hosts raced 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after eight minutes, with Derek Maguire, Colm Judge and Ryan Burns on target, although Colin Kelly’s side could have been further in front.
They also registered three wides during that period, with huge dominance also at midfield where Bevan Duffy and Tommy Durnin were performing well.
Burns also came under pressure from the Westmeath defence inside, and at the opposite end, Westmeath broke their 12-minute scoring dead-lock, with a fine point from Shane Dempsey.
Cribbin’s side grew in confidence and claimed a 0-6 to 0-3 lead by the 26th minute.
However, Louth worked hard with Tommy Durnin and Burns on target, but Westmeath held a 0-7 to 0-6 half-time lead.
Just a point may have separated the sides at the interval, but Westmeath laid a firm assault on Louth’s chances on the restart.
Callum McCormack cut through for Westmeath’s first goal inside 90 seconds after the restart, following a pass from Paddy Holloway.
Five minutes later Westmeath moved 2-8 to 0-7 ahead, with Dempsey netting, after good work by John Heslin and Ger Egan in the build-up.
Louth fought back with points from Conor Grimes and Burns to cut the gap to five points by the 43rd minute.
However, Westmeath quickly cancelled out those scores with Heslin first slotting over from play, and then bringing his match tally to seven points, with a fifth converted free.
Now 2-10 to 0-9 in front with 25 minutes remaining, Westmeath looked like cruising to victory, but Louth failed to give up.
The Wee County heeled Westmeath scoreless for a further 11 minutes, while tagging on three unanswered points, with Declan Byrne, Burns and substitute Eoin O’Connor contributing.
Three points behind, Louth looked to push on, but were hit by a hard blow when Connellan cut through for Westmeath’s third goal in the 56th minute.
Shane Dempsey played a long ball in and following a one-two between Connellan and Heslin, the Athlone clubman fired past Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher.
Louth scored two of the next three points, but Westmeath remained on top and finished with seven points to spare.
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; J Gilligan, K Maguire, K Daly; P Holloway, K Martin, J Dolan; D Daly, G Egan; J Egan, R Connellan (1-2), J Stapleton; C McCormack (1-1), J Heslin (0-9, 6f), S Dempsey (1-2). Subs: R Foley for Stapleton (56); L Smith for D Daly (58); F Boyle for Holloway (69).
LOUTH: N Gallagher; A Williams, P Reilly, P Rath; D Byrne (0-2), D O’Hanlon, A Reid; B Duffy, T Durnin (0-2); D Maguire (0-1), C Judge (0-1), J Stewart; R Burns (0-6, 4f), C Grimes (0-2), P Smith. Subs: E O’Connor (0-1) for Smith (34); D Finnegan for Duffy (42); R Moore for Maguire (49); D Crilly for Stewart (61).
REFEREE: Barry Cassidy (Derry).