Louth 1-15 Westmeath 2-10
Louth continued their progress under the stewardship of Peter Fitzpatrick to reach the county’s first Leinster final in half a century with a deserved victory over Westmeath at Croke Park.
It was tight in the end but there could be no questioning the merit of a win that will have Wee County supporters licking their chops at the prospect of having a cut at neighbours Meath in the provincial decider.
The men in red always held the upper hand and were full value for a 0-8 to 0-5 interval advantage.
Shane Lennon tormented Donal O’Donoghue, who was eventually replaced in the second half, slotting two fine points but not for the first time, it was the midfield duo of Paddy Keenan and Brian White who dominated the scoring.
Keenan and White shared four of those first half points and the former finished with three from play, while his partner contributed four.
They also dominated the middle sector for large periods of the game, although Paul Bannon in particular did put up quite a bit of resistance.
For their part, the Lakesiders were struggling to create much but Paul Greville, Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon were all amongst the scorers to keep them in touch.
They were in the game with a bang when Bannon rammed home a 48th minute penalty, awarded for a foul on Glennon but Louth’s response was telling as they racked up 1-3 without reply.
The goal was a peach, coming in the 59th minute from Colm Judge. It started at the other end of the field when Glennon was dispossessed inside the Louth square.
Suddenly, Adrian Reed was feeding impressive substitute Páraic Smith, who saw off the attentions of Francis Boyle before jinking between two more Westmeath defenders and galloping goalwards.
He unselfishly laid the ball off to Judge and the Newtown Blues man made no mistake from close range.
That looked like that but Westmeath, though laboured in attack, were not short on character.
With less than six minutes remaining, Greville, who was Westmeath’s most dangerous forward, launched a long ball towards Martin Flanagan, who had entered the fray mid-way through the second half.
The big man sneaked in from behind Dessie Finnegan to claim possession, then dummied the full-back brilliantly before placing a shot calmly from an angle into the net at the near post.
Glennon pointed almost immediately after and suddenly there was just a point between the sides.
But Louth were not about to let this slip and it was Judge who gave them that vital two-point margin, dummying off his favoured left side before arcing over from 30m with his right boot.
Westmeath did have chances late on but John Smyth dithered in space on the 21 and lost the ball, while Bannon blazed wide from a good position after.
But it was Louth’s day and they will now hope to go one step further than the men of 1960.
Louth: N Gallagher; E McAuley, D Finnegan, J O’Brien; R Finnegan, M Fanning, R Greene; P Keenan 0-3, B White 0-4(3fs); A McDonnell, M Brennan 0-1, A Reed 0-1; C Judge 1-2(0-1f), S Lennon 0-2, JP Rooney.
Subs: P Smyth 0-1 for McDonnell (ht); D Maguire 0-1 for Rooney (53)
Westmeath: G Connaughton; F Boyle, D O’Donoghue, K Maguire; M Ennis, K Martin, D Harte; P Bannon 1-1 (1-0 pen), D Duffy; D Heavin, C Lynam, G Egan 0-1; P Greville 0-5(2fs), D Dolan 0-1, D Glennon 0-2.
Subs: J Smyth for Heavin inj (23); J Keane for O’Donoghue (46); M Flanagan 1-0 for Lynam (53); T McDaniel for Egan (61); D Healy for Martin (64).