Despite playing with the wind in the first half, Athlone had little or no answer for the visitors in the early stages and they conceded four points in a row — all from Ben Brosnan frees — to trail by three after the first quarter.
A remarkable point from Alan Coffey cut the deficit and Cathal Shine’s 21st minute goal was both fortunate and hugely consequential. The younger brother of Donie, his 50m free dropped short and should have been fielded by Tom Hughes in the ITC goal. Instead the ball bounced off Hughes’s chest and into the net.
In the resultant celebrations, an altercation developed between ITC corner back Joe Kinahan and AIT full forward James Dolan. On the advice of the umpire, Michael Duffy issued a straight red card to Kinahan and the game changed utterly from that point on.
Westmeath’s Ger Egan began to control matters and four points from James McGivney, Frank Burke and Egan (2) gave AIT a five-point half-time lead.
Outnumbered, IT Carlow struggled for second half chances. Kieran Martin, Shine and Egan were all prominent in the middle, despite the efforts of Conor Boyle for ITC, and Coffey added four more points to his tally.
A straight red card for Leitrim’s John Mulligan in the closing minutes was the only black mark for the home side, who now meet GMIT or Cork IT.
Scorers for AIT: C Shine 1-2 (1-1fs); A Coffey 0-5; G Egan 0-3 (2f); J McGivney, F Burke, J Mulligan 0-1 each.
Scorers Carlow IT: B Brosnan 0-4 (4fs); B Hurley 0-1; E Walsh 0-1
ATHLONE IT: G Connaughton (Westmeath); E Kerins (Galway), K Clarke (Cavan), C O’Brien (Galway); T Rahill (Meath), K Martin (Westmeath), L Murphy (Cavan); C Duggan (Galway), C Shine (Roscommon); J Mulligan (Leitrim), G Egan (Westmeath), A Coffey (Westmeath); J McGivney (Longford), J Dolan (Westmeath), F Burke (Galway). Subs: D Maleady (Offaly) for Murphy; P Masterson (Longford) for Burke; A Stone (Westmeath) for McGivney.
CARLOW IT: T Hughes (Wexford); J Kinahan (Kildare), C Lawlor (Carlow), A Nolan (Wexford); A Forde (Meath), B Kinahan (Kildare), E Walsh (Galway); R Downey (Dublin), C Boyle (Laois); D Hayden (Wicklow), C Reynolds (Kildare), M Mangan (Kerry); S Gannon (Carlow), B Hurley (Cork), B Brosnan (Wexford). Subs: F Conway (Kildare) for Reynolds; P Brogan (Roscommon) for Gannon; D Mulhall (Kildare) for Mangan; F O’Bearra (Galway) for Hurley.
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).