Louth ended the year on a high with victory over Wicklow, while Westmeath and Offaly drew (0-11 apiece) in Saturday’s Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup action.
The Faithful County had the better of the opening half at St. Loman’s GAA grounds in Mullingar and led 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval, with corner forwards Shane Tierney and Bernard Allen both showing well for Offaly.
Paddy Fagan kicked some superb points for the home side but otherwise Westmeath were second best and that forced Jack Cooney to call on Ronan O’Toole and Ger Egan, two starters from last year’s championship team.
O’Toole proved hugely influential as he kicked three points in the second half, though his colleagues racked up eight wides in that period.
Offaly’s Bernard Allen, who grew up less than 200 metres from the border between the counties, kicked three superb second-half scores to edge Offaly back in front.
But Westmeath kept pressing and Fagan’s fourth point of the day with the last kick of the game salvaged a share of the spoils.
Nine players scored from play for Louth as they overcame the sending off of Andy McDonnell after 13 minutes to record a 1-17 to 1-9 win over their hosts at Bray Emmets GAA club.
Wicklow led early through midfield duo Conor McGraynor and Padraig O’Toole, but Louth quickly settled to draw level with Ryan Burns and James Craven on target.
Despite losing McDonnell, Louth played some excellent football and led the game from the tenth minute after John Clutterbuck’s fine goal.
Gearóid Morrissey stunned the visitors with a thunderbolt of a shot to get Wicklow back to within a point, but points for Burns and Sam Mulroy helped Louth into a 1-8 to 1-6 lead at the interval.
The visitors added six points on the spin on the restart to seal their win.
Tommy Durnin kicked a point from a mark, Declan Byrne added two off the bench and midfielder Conor Early was also on target.