They were under the cosh in no uncertain terms and can count themselves lucky to have survived.
Carlow were the authors of their own downfall. On four occasions within five minutes of the resumption, Carlow, trailing by five points at the interval, created gilt-edged goal-scoring opportunities but incredibly, failed to convert any of them.
Following their fortuitous League final triumph over Limerick a week previously, Westmeath oozed class and confidence as they opened up a two-points lead with right-corner forward JP Casey and centre-forward Shane Colleary finding their scoring touch right from the start.
After a very subdued beginning, Carlow gradually found their feet and Westmeath were made to look very ordinary once Simon Rea, Johnny Nevin and Mark Carpenter began to make their mark up front.
Carlow not alone wiped out Westmeath’s early lead, but stormed two points in front at the end of the first quarter.
This was most definitely a wake-up call for Westmeath and they responded with aplomb as the game continued to ebb and flow. Then came the turning point of the first half.
Westmeath had nudged their way into a one-point lead but Carlow were giving as good as they got. However, Carlow’s limitations at the back were exposed again in the 33rd minute when full-forward Gary Dolan found Colleary in splendid isolation and the centre-forward made no mistake from close range.
But if Westmeath harboured any notions of a cakewalk, leading as they were by 1-9 to 0-7 at half-time, they were to be sadly disillusioned because Carlow had other things in mind.
They went for Westmeath hammer and tongs on the restart, and with any normal luck would have put their opponents on the rack.
But, it was not to be, primarily because of the heroics of the Westmeath goalkeeper Aidan Lennon. In a one-to-one situation, Lennon deflected a shot from Carpenter around the post for a 45.
Seconds later, wingback Brian Morley did the same after Carpenter’s shot for goal had beaten Lennon.
Then, Lennon finger-tipped a cracking drive from Rea out for a third consecutive 45.
And finally, in this extraordinary sequence, left half forward Johnny Kavanagh shot wide with the goal in his sights.
After Westmeath had extended their lead to seven points at the end of the third quarter, Carlow had one last chance to make a telling impact but to prove that this was not to be their day, Rea’s shot for goal struck the bottom of the upright.
Westmeath, with Des Dolan in particular, kicking some fine points, were cruising to a second-round meeting with Meath when substitute Willie Minchin finally broke Carlow’s goal-scoring famine with a good strike at the death.
Scorers for Westmeath - S. Colleary 1-1, D. Dolan 0-6 (0-2 from frees, 0-1 from 45), F. Wilson 0-5 (0-3 from frees), J.P. Casey 0-5 (0-1 from 45).
Carlow - W. Minchin 1-0, S. Rea 0-4 (0-2 from frees, 0-1 from 65), M. Carpenter, J. Nevin 0-2 each, T. Nolan, J.Hayden, D. Byrne, W. Power 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: A. Lennon; D. Heavin, D. Gavin, K. Henson, B. Morley, D. Healy, D. Kilmartin, R. O’Connell, M. Flanagan, F. Wilson, S. Colleary, J. Conroy, J.P. Casey, G. Dolan, D. Dolan.
Subs: F. Murray for Healy (inj.), S. Mitchell for Wilson, A. Mangan for Colleary, D. O’Shaughnessy for Conroy.
CARLOW: J. Clarke; C. McCarthy, B. Farrell, V. Fleming, J. Hayden, S. O’Brien, B. English, T. Walsh, W. Power, J. Nevin, M. Carpenter, J. Kavanagh, S. Rea, J. McGrath, P. Nolan.
Subs: D. Kelly for Nolan, W. Minchin for Kelly, D. Byrne for McGrath, R. Burke for Farrell, J.J. Keogh for Fleming.
Referee: A. Mangan (Kerry).