The Tribesmen will not be shaking in their boots at that prospect though. The overall standard of hurling was disappointing with a distinct absence of good first touches supplemented by some very unimpressive striking and slack marking. There was nothing to choose between the sides for the opening 22 minutes as Westmeath led 0-3 to 0-1, playing with the aid of the blustery wind.
Then Carlow ‘keeper Kevin Kehoe, who had just made a brilliant save from substitute Derek McNicholas, allowed a tame 35m shot from the same player creep into his net.
McNicholas was on the mark again on 35 minutes with an opportunist strike and when Mitchell breached the home defence with the final action of the first-half from a 110m free, Westmeath enjoyed a 3-5 to 0-4 interval lead.
Carlow changed goalies at half-time with Nicky Roberts deputising.
The Barrowsiders did put their collective shoulder to the wheel in the second-half and a long-range goal from wing back Richard Coady on the hour provided the home support with renewed hope. That goal trimmed the Westmeath advantage to a mere three points (3-8 to 1-11).
Almost immediately Westmeath swept upfield and the home goalie saw his attempted clearance blocked down by visiting midfielder and captainBrian Smyth. The Raharney clubman crashed the ball to the net from close range to kill off the home revival.
Carlow free-taker Ruairi Dunbar scored 0-9 of his side’s total in a forward line which badly misfired against a Westmeath defence where the half-back line of Eoin Price, Andrew Mitchell and Philip Gilsenan were heroic all through. Brendan Murtagh was accurate from frees for Hanley’s side, scoring 0-7 from placed balls.
Carlow’s tale of woe was complete when midfielder Jack Kavanagh received a straight red card in the final minutes for an incident involving Westmeath half-forward Ciarán Curley. Kavanagh had earlier in the game received a yellow card.
Scorers for Westmeath: B Murtagh 0-7f, D McNicholas 2-0, B Smyth 1-2, A Mitchell 1-0f, J Shaw 0-1.
Scorers for Carlow: R Dunbar 0-9 (6f, 1 65), E Nolan 0-3, R Coady 1-0, E Byrne, P Coady 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: C Scally; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; N Flanagan, B Smyth; C Curley, P Greville, J Shaw; D Carthy, B Murtagh, A Devine.
Subs: D McNicholas for Devine (18), N Dowdall for Carthy (31), J Gilligan for Gilsenan (inj. 48), P Dowdall for Flanagan (50), A Craig for Curley (inj. 70).
CARLOW: K Kehoe; A Corcoran, S Kavanagh, D Shaw; E Coady, E Nolan, R Coady; J Kavanagh, J Rogers; E Byrne, C Doyle, M Brennan; A Gaule, R Dunbar, P Kehoe.
Subs: N Roberts for K Kehoe (ht); D Roberts for P Kehoe (ht), D Kavanagh for Gaul (52), P Coady for Shaw (65).
Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly).