Louth 1-14 Westmeath 1-9
Leaving Cert student Ryan Burns delivered Louth's only goal, which paved the way for the visitors to take a five-point win in the opening game of the Leinster SFC in Cusack Park, Mullingar tonight.
Trailing by 1-8 to 0-9 in the 49th minute, Louth held Westmeath to just one further score as Aidan O"Rourke's charges firmly turned this game in their favour, to maintain their unbeaten run in the competition against the Lake County stretching back to 1977.
While Burns 59th minute goal will be one of the standout memories from this match, this game was characterised by a succession of missed opportunities.
A total of 31 scoring chances went amiss over the 70 minutes, with Louth shading the wides tally by 16-15.
11 of Louth's wides came during an opening half which saw Aidan O'Rourke's charges firmly dominant after a sluggish start.
Both teams started poorly and it wasn't until the tenth minute before a score was produced.
John Heslin claimed the opening point from a free, and quickly followed up with a second from play, with a Kieran Martin score ensuring a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Louth rallied with a trio of unanswered points with Shane Lennon, Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire on target to level the tie by the 17th minute.
Denis Glennon edged Westmeath ahead at the end of the quarter, before Derek Maguire grazed the ball wide of the target, in the first goal chance of the game for Louth.
The Dundalk man quickly made amends with an equaliser, before debutant Ray Connellan was denied of a goal, with a block from the outstretched boot of Louth keeper Neil Gallagher.
Maguire pushed Louth ahead with his third point, before Heslin broke a 13-minute barren spell for Westmeath with a 30th minute score.
This levelled the tie for the third time, but Louth were ruthless before the break.
Byrne and Andy McDonnell added points and although Louth's wides tally mounted up to 11 after 35 minutes, a second Byrne point ensured an 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.
Westmeath switched John Heslin to midfield for the second half, and it certainly paid dividends as the hosts were more eager on the restart.
The Lake County got stuck in from the throw-in, with Denis Glennon firing an early wide, before Ger Egan claimed his second score to cut the gap to two points.
Paddy Keenan's first point of the match opened up a three-point margin, after Gallagher made a point-blank save from a David McCormack goal shot.
Both sides were suddenly wasteful in front of the posts, with three Louth wides in a two-minute spell.
Westmeath bounced back and following a Heslin point they kept motoring, with Kieran Martin registering their only goal in the 48th minute.
Callum McCormack laid off the pass for his fellow Maryland clubman, as Martin slotted the ball to the right corner to hand Paul Bealin's side a one-point lead.
Louth worked hard and immediately moved upfield, with a Brian White effort coming off the posts, before a goal chance came for the Wee County.
Midfielder Paddy Keenan had the ball in the back of the Westmeath net, but was penalised for a pickup, and immediately at the opposite end the hosts moved two points clear thanks to a hard earned James Dolan score.
But Louth held that extra edge, with a brace of Keenan scores cut the gap to the minimum margin entering the final quarter.
Westmeath amassed three wides inside two minutes, with Dessie Dolan, Denis Glennon and Callum McCormack misfiring in front of the posts.
Amazingly Westmeath didn't score for the final 20 minutes, as Louth took control.
The visitors eventually breached the Lake County goalmouth in the 59th minute, with Leaving Cert student Ryan Burns bagging his sides only goal on his debut.
The Hunterstown Rovers clubman handed Louth a lead they wouldn't relinquish with a brace of Maguire scores opening up a 1-13 to 1-9 lead.
White became the first ever player to pick up a black card in the Championship, following a high challenge on James Dolan with less than nine minutes left on the clock.
This failed to deter Aidan O'Rourke's side as they finished strongly.
Maguire fired his fifth point in the 63rd minute to open up a four-point lead, with a Byrne pointed free coming in the dying minutes, as Louth took a five-point win.
LOUTH: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G O'Hare; J O'Brien, D Crilly, A Reid; P Keenan (0-3), M Fanning; C Grimes, B White, A McDonnell (0-1); D Byrne (0-3, 2f), S Lennon (0-1), D Maguire (0-5). Subs: R Burns (1-0) for Lennon (56); B Donnelly for Fanning (56); J Stewart for White (62 Black Card); P Reilly for Reid (67).
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; Damian Dolan, K Gavin, K Maguire; R Foley, P Sharry, J Dolan (0-1); D Duffy, R Connellan; C McCormack, G Egan (0-2), K Martin (1-1); D Glennon (0-1), J Heslin (0-3, 2f), Dessie Dolan (0-1). Subs: D McCormack for Connellan (28); D Harte for Damian Dolan (60); A Giles for C McCormack (64); J Gonoud for Foley (68).
REFEREE: Maurice Deegan (Laois)