Antrim end Westmeath's Championship ambitions

Antrim 2-25 Westmeath 1-19

Antrim 2-25 Westmeath 1-19

Antrim’s attacking firepower proved too much for Westmeath at Casement Park, where they ended the Midlanders’ All-Ireland campaign with a convincing qualifier win.

The Saffrons, who led by 10 points at half-time, saw their lead whittled back to three by a resurgent Westmeath side, but finished strongly, with 11 points from Neil McManus, to book a date with Carlow next weekend.

Conor McCann struck the first major blow for Antrim in the ninth minute when he blasted in a goal, thanks to the vision of Darren Hamill.

Earlier, the Saffrons had moved into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with points from McManus, Karl Stewart, Paul Shiels and Ciaran Herron.

When Simon McCrory and McManus tagged on points, the Saffrons led by eight.

But Westmeath got a goal back in the 12th minute, Paul Greville finishing from a tight angle.

Antrim responded with a string of points, including three McManus frees, to make it 1-10 to 1-1 by the 19th minute.

But once again, with midfielders Paddy Dowdall and Brian Smyth and wing back Eoin Price driving their challenge, Westmeath got themselves back into the game.

Brendan Murtagh thumped over a couple of frees and added a point from play, with Dowdall also on target.

They were hit by a second Antrim goal on the half-hour, however, McManus cutting the sliothair back for McCann to drill home at the far post.

McManus brought his tally to eight, and at the break, Antrim led by 2-16 to 1-9.

But they were pressed on to the back foot in the early stages of the second half by a determined Leinster side.

Derek McNicholas hit the target three times, and Dowdall and Murtagh also floated over quality scores.

But Antrim, with Neil McAuley rising to the challenge at the back, steadied the ship, and McManus rediscovered the finishing touch with two frees which made it a five-point game going into the final quarter.

McCann and substitute Colm McFall stretched the Antrim lead, and Paul Shiels gave them a massive lift when he charged through the middle to hoist an inspirational score.

Murtagh went for a goal direct from a free, but his effort was easily dealt with, and the Westmeath challenge was over, their energy spent.

And Antrim finished with another flourish, McManus bringing his points tally to 11.

Antrim: C O’Connell, C McGuinness, C Donnelly (0-1, f), K McGourty, A Graffin (0-1), M Herron, N McAuley, P Shiels (0-3), C Herron (0-1), S McCrory (0-2), K Stewart (0-2), N McManus (0-11, 8F, 1 ’65), C McCann (2-1), D Hamill (0-2), J Black.

Subs: K Molloy for C Herron (50), C McFall (0-1, f) for Black (55), B McFall for M Herron (66), J McCouaig for McGourty

Westmeath: C Scully, C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath, E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan, P Dowdall (0-3), B Smyth, C Curley (0-1), P Greville (1-0), B Murtagh (0-10, 5f, 1 s/l), J Shaw (0-2), D McNicholas (0-3), D Carthy.

Subs: A Price for McGrath (h-t), Alan Devine for Carthy (44)

Referee: T Carroll (Offaly).

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