Would either of these sides fancy taking on the league champions? And could they compete?
When the announcement came over the tannoy that the throw-in would be delayed for 10 minutes for “safety reasons” as late arrivals congested around the one open ticket booth, the tongue-in-cheek speculation was the Hill 16 hordes had descended to scout the opposition.
With an attendance of just 3,080 that clearly wasn’t the case.
It made little difference to Westmeath in the end however, as they continued the upward curve with a professional performance against a team that will be playing three divisions lower than them next spring.
“It is great to follow on from our league campaign and get the win,” said manager, Pat Flanagan. “It will give the fellas confidence to go into this game (Dublin) in two weeks.
“I don’t think we played with any sort of intensity whatsoever. But that can happen in the first round when you go a few points ahead.
“No matter what county or club you come from, the first round is always difficult. We performed relatively well in patches. But there is an awful lot more to come.”
He knows there will have to be but believes that his blend of youth and experience as characterised by Denis Glennon, Dessie Dolan, Ger Egan and Kieran Martin amongst others, has what it takes.
“The whole idea when we started this year was to get into fellas’ heads and have them believe and think that they can achieve anything.
“Not too many would have given us a chance of coming out of Division 2. That was a huge boost for us mentally, to come out of there, and (the quarter-final) will depend a lot on our mentality and what we can bring to the game.
“If we fear Dublin or stand back off Dublin they’re going to crucify us and we can’t afford to do that.”
On this occasion, Westmeath represented Goliath and Carlow did their best to block space in front of them with 13 players often behind the ball. It worked for a while, but eventually, the Lakesiders’ superior physicality and pace shone through.
They played with Glennon and Dolan in tandem inside, just like the old days, while Egan roamed to magnificent effect, giving a virtuoso display of long distance kick-passing to find the duo.
The home side had three points on the board by the seventh minute, with Glennon fisting over after burning Conor Lawler for speed, before Dolan slotted a brace. The Garrycastle maestro finished with five points from play and two of them especially bore the hallmarks of his class.
Carlow did have some good moments though and Brendan Murphy was involved in most of them.
Operating at full-forward, he kicked four wides but also managed five points. Four of those came from play, although the last was when he had moved out to midfield.
Without him operating in the centre earlier, Carlow struggled in an area where David Duffy was very good, while Paul Sharry and Egan picked up plenty of breaks.
It was an attempted point by Murphy that led to the visitors’ 11th-minute goal. Gary Connaughton appeared to have command of the situation as the ball dropped short but Sean Glennon swooped to flick it from his grasp for a shock goal.
With Egan excelling in a play-making role, Westmeath gradually tagged on the points again, Dolan adding his third and John Heslin deadly accurate from frees.
Martin announced himself in the last eight minutes of the first half with two goals to ended Carlow’s chances. The young Maryland forward finished well having run off Dolan’s shoulder to receive a perfect lay-off and in the first minute of injury time finished brilliantly into the same corner after good work by Egan and Glennon.
It was 2-8 to 1-3 at half-time and though Murphy tagged on two quick points, the second a fantastic effort after a strong fetch, Westmeath responded with points from James Dolan and Heslin (free) before the former found the net towards the end of the third quarter.
Egan and Glennon were the creators again and Westmeath were really going for the jugular now.
To their credit, Carlow kept battling and Trevor O’Reilly denied Martin a hat-trick late on, while Brendan Murphy and his brother Brian shared four points. Heslin, Kevin Maguire and Paul Sharry all added points for Westmeath though as they cruised to the finish line.
Scorers for Westmeath: K Martin 2-0; D Dolan, J Heslin (fs) 0-5 each; J Dolan 1-1; P Sharry, K Maguire, G Egan, D Glennon 0-1 each
Scorers for Carlow: Brendan Murphy 0-5(1 45); S Gannon 1-0; Brian Murphy, D Foley (fs) 0-2 each; E Ruth 0-1
Subs for Westmeath: D Corroon for Egan (54); C Curley for D Dolan (54); D Daly for Duffy (62); D Dolan for Harte (65); L Smith for Martin (65)
Subs for Carlow: J Kennedy for Reid (56); M Doyle for Molloy (60); A Kelly for J Murphy (66); T Bolger for Hayden (67); C Moran for Ruth (69)
Referee: C Branagan (Down).