Teenager Ryan Burns hit a crucial second-half goal as Louth overpowered Westmeath 1-14 to 1-09 in theLeinster Senior Football Championship at Cusack Park in Mullingar.
Westmeath led 1-09 to 0-10 in the 51st minute after Kieran Martin hit the back of the net and Dessie Dolan pointed, but from then on it was all Louth as second-half scores from Burns, Paddy Keenan and two late points from Derek Maguire gave the Wee County vital breathing room in the face of late Westmeath pressure.
Louth had heroes all over the field in this tie but it was no coincidence that Keenan was to the fore in the early stages of the second half when it looked as if Westmeath were set to come back into the tie.
The St Patrick’s clubman suggested that the Louth players should warm up in their club jerseys before the start of the match but he did his county colours proud with three excellent scores to keep his side in contention during a phase of Westmeath supremacy, before Burns came off the bench to deliver the killer blow for the visitors.
Both sides struggled to find any rhythm in the early stages with neither manager willing to commit too many men forward.
Louth played with the assistance of a slight breeze and that afforded them the option of shooting from distance, yet it yielded little reward as they kicked four wides in the first eight minutes.
John Heslin got Westmeath off to a good start with two fine points, one from a free and one snapshot from a tight angle, while Martin added to the lead in the twelfth minute with an accurate strike from the left hand touchline.
Shane Lennon finally opened Louth’s account after fourteen minutes with a trademark high catch and an over-the-shoulder point.
And from then until half-time, the Wee County took control of the tie, dominating the battle for primary possession.
Their errant shooting ensured that they struggled to make their supremacy pay, however, and only Derek Maguire was exempt from criticism in front of goals as he kicked five fine scores from play out of centre forward, three in the first half.
This was in stark contrast to his fellow forwards who accumulated ten wides over the course of the opening thirty five minutes and sixteen in total.
The sides were deadlocked at 0-5 apiece on the half-hour mark before Louth finally found their range in the lead up to the interval, scoring three times – twice through long-range Declan Byrne strikes and another from Andy McDonnell after Westmeath were caught in possession, working the ball out of the back line.
A stunning Ger Egan point after the break seemed to kick-start a Westmeath revival but they too struggled to score into the eastern end of the ground, while Keenan kept Louth ticking over at the Town end.
Westmeath retook the lead when Kieran Martin crashed the ball to the Louth net after a powerful run from the left wing in the 49th minute and this was followed up by scores from cousins Dessie and James Dolan, but some vital chances to pull clear even further were spurned and Louth crept back into the tie, again with Keenan to the fore.
The tide turned for one last time when minor star Burns cut through the Westmeath defence and picked his spot past Darren Quinn brilliantly, doing so with just his second possession of the ball.
He followed this up with a pinpoint cross-field ball to set up Maguire for a further point and while Westmeath had a couple of half chances to get a second goal, most notably at the death when Martin was inches wide from a tight angle, Louth always looked like they had that bit more in the tank and they now advance to meet Kildare in the Leinster quarter-finals at Croke Park.
Westmeath: D Quinn; Damien Dolan, K Gavin, K Maguire; R Foley, P Sharry, J Dolan (0-01); D Duffy, J Heslin (0-03, 0-02 frees); G Egan (0-02), Dessie Dolan (0-01), K Martin (1-01); D Glennon (0-01), R Connellan, C McCormack.
Subs: D McCormack for Connellan (28), D Harte for Damien Dolan (60), A Giles for C McCormack (64), J Gonoud for Foley (68).
Louth: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G O’Hare; D Crilly, J O’Brien, A Reid; P Keenan (0-03), M Fanning; D Byrne (0-03, 0-02 frees), D Maguire (0-05), A McDonnell (0-02); B White, S Lennon (0-01), C Grimes.
Subs: R Burns (1-00) for Lennon (56), B Donnelly for Fanning (56), James Stewart for White (62, B/C), P Reilly for Reid (67).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).