Carlow manager, Colm Bonnar, has refused to rule out a shock result against Limerick, after claiming significant silverware at Croke Park for the second season running.
Carlow’s reward for winning the first-ever Joe McDonagh Cup — aside from promotion to the 2019 Leinster championship — is a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Limerick, Munster’s third-placed team.
They’ll have home advantage for that game at Netwatch Cullen Park next weekend, too.
And with goalscorers James Nolan and Chris Nolan in top form, Bonnar said the 2017 Ring Cup winners will approach the game with optimism.
“It’s a huge test for us, and Limerick and Wexford have both been waiting for the last three or four weeks to get at us,” said Bonnar.
“It’s a massive game for them, because both of those would have an eye on the bigger prize of the Liam MacCarthy Cup itself. They’ll be looking to push us aside very quickly.
They’re going to come down very focused and give it a hell of a rattle, but we’re fighting for respect and we need to be able to stand up to that and to stand up to whatever they can throw at us.
“It will be a good indication of what we need to do, going forward.
“It will be in Netwatch Cullen Park and you can never write off this team. If they get the bit between their teeth and get a bit of luck on the day, who knows what could happen?”
Westmeath’s summer isn’t over either. Despite missing out on promotion to the big time for 2019, they’ve still got a preliminary quarter-final against Wexford.
That will take place in Mullingar, a venue where Westmeath ran Wexford close in the 2015 Championship.
Manager Michael Ryan said: “Yes, that game was in the melting pot for a long time. But, look, we’ve had a long year too. I think we’ve played 12 matches, we’ve won nine, and we’ve lost three, but unfortunately, the three games we lost were huge ones. We just have to try and lift it now for next weekend.”
That won’t be easy because while Ryan reckoned his team were “never really at the pitch of it,” they still led in first-half injury-time.
Aonghus Clarke put them a point ahead on that occasion, 0-13 to 0-12, but it was a terrific goal chance and he had Robbie Greville to his right.
From the resulting puck-out, Carlow engineered their own goal chance and Doyle took full advantage, controlling a loose ball on his hurl, before volleying in.
It was a five-point swing, as Carlow now led 1-12 to 0-13 at half-time, when they could easily have trailed by three.
Westmeath never really recovered and were suckered by a second Carlow goal after the restart, through Nolan, after a pass by Doyle.
Kevin McDonald and Denis Murphy added points and suddenly Carlow were seven points clear.
Westmeath lost the experienced Derek McNicholas to a 66th minute dismissal, following a second yellow.
And Niall O’Brien’s 74th minute goal, when he tapped in after a goalkeeping error, was only consolation.
“I think we had six wides in the first six minutes of the game and that’s not a recipe for winning big matches,” said Ryan.
D. Murphy (0-10, 9 frees, 1 65); C. Nolan (1-4); J. Doyle (1-1); P. Coady (0-4); J.M. Nolan (0-3); E Byrne (0-2); K. McDonald and D. Byrne (0-1 each).
A. Devine (0-8, 8 frees); E. Price (0-6); N. O’Brien (1-1); A. Clarke (0-3); D. McNicholas (1 free) and R. Greville (0-2 each); N. Mitchell and D. Clinton (0-1 each).
T. Tracey; A. Corcoran, P. Doyle, M. Doyle; K. McDonald, D. English, R. Coady; J. Kavanagh, D. Byrne; J.M. Nolan, P. Coady, E. Byrne; D. Murphy, J. Doyle, C. Nolan.
R. Smithers for D. Byrne (66); S. Murphy for E Byrne (67); R. Kelly for Kavanagh (69); J. Murphy P Coady (71); T. Joyce for C Nolan (72).
P. Carroll; S. Power, T. Doyle, J. Gilligan; L. Varley, P. Greville, D. McNicholas; E. Price, R. Greville; N. Mitchell, J. Boyle, A. Clarke; N. O’Brien, C. Doyle, A. Devine.
D. Clinton for C. Doyle, S. Clavin for Varley (39); C. Boyle for J Boyle (46); B. Doyle for Power (62); C. Shaw for Mitchell (67).
C. McAllister (Cork).