Westmeath 1-14, Carlow 0-10
If this was Westmeath’s way of sending out a clear message they succeeded.
They managed to build on last years glorious championship run as they handed Carlow a seven point drubbing in this Bank of Ireland first round Leinster senior football clash at Portlaoise today.
After a league campaign which saw them struggle to click into gear there were genuine grounds for concern against an improving Carlow outfit.
Those doubts and concerns were spectacularly dismissed by a truly inspired Westmeath side which gave us yet another glimpse of the spectacular feats which brought them so far last year.
While Luke Dempsey will be happy to have got over this first hurdle he will have some concern with his sides finishing.
Despite having a seven point winning margin this would have been far greater but for an inexplicable tally of fifteen wides, while some desperate Carlow defending saved them time and time again as the midlanders attacked in numbers.
Westmeath certainly played with a spring in their step for, except for the opening five minutes, they were always in control particularly with Rory O’Connell and David O’Shaughnessy controlling in midfield.
However it was Carlow who had the first real goalscoring chance of the game after just four minutes but centre-forward Willie Quinlan, having found himself in a one-to-one situation with keeper Aidan Lennon, shot low and straight at the keeper.
Carlow seemed to lose their way following this early setback for it was Westmeath who took the initiative.
But for all their pressure they only had three wides to show with Carlow responding to take the lead with an eighth minute Mark Carpenter point.
But Westmeath still managed to remain in control with a beautiful Des Dolan point bringing them level one minute later.
The midlanders for all their dominance could only manage to add two further points through Dolan and J.P. Casey to lead 0-3 to 0-1 after fourteen minutes.
Carlow to their credit were managing to cling in.
After Shane Colleary and Brian Morley had increased their side's lead, the Carlow response was swift with Mark Carpenter kicking a fine second point to leave it 0-5 to 0-2 after thirty-two minutes.
When Brian Kelly added a further Carlow point from a free, amazingly Westmeath despite all their dominance only managed a two-point interval lead, 0-5 to 0-3.
One expected a Westmeath salvo in the second half and this is what one got for they totally controlled the second thirty-five minutes.
After Thomas Walsh had reduced the deficit to a single point, Westmeath went on to take total control with corner-forward J.P. Casey grasping the game to kick four points to push his side into a 0-9 to 0-6 lead after fifty-six minutes.
Although points from Garvan Ware and Brian Kelly managed to keep Carlow in touch there was ever only going to be one result as Westmeath showed an attacking flair and skill in their approach play which saw Carlow play most of the game in their own half.
Westmeath with Des Dolan and J.P. Casey sparkling in attack continued to dominate and tease the Carlow defrence.
It was Dolan who figured in the build-up to the games only goal as the game moved into injury time with Shane Colleary applying the finishing touch from close range.
Westmeath Manager Luke Dempsey was happy to have got the result but stressed the need for further improvement.
"We controlled the game for lengthy periods but failed to put it away. Our finishing will need to improve but we’re still happy to have got over this hurdle. It was always going to be a difficult one."
Westmeath: A. Lennon, D. Healy, D. Mitchell, f. Murray, B. Morley (0-1), P. Conway, J. Keane, R. O’Connell, d. O’Shaughnessy, K. Ryan, M. Flanagan, S. Colleary (1-1), J. Fallon, D. Dolan (0-2), J. P. Casey (0-8). Subs: D. Heavin for Healy (inj); M. Ennis (0-2) for Fallon; A. Mangan for Ryan.
Carlow: J. Clarke, J. Hickey, B. Farrell, A. Corden, J. Kavanagh, S. O’Brien, J. Hayden, P. Kiernan, G. Ware (0-2), M. Carpenter (0-2), J. Nevin, B. Kelly (0-4). Subs: J. Byrne for J. Kavanagh; A. Bowe for S. Kavanagh; M. Drea for Hickey.
Referee: J. McKee (Armagh).