Westmeath 1-18 Meath 0-19
Westmeath recovered from losing their two first games of the Leinster SHC round robin group to beat Meath in Mullingar and book their place in the provincial quarter-final.
The Lake County will take on Offaly in the next round, arguably the easier of the two possible assignments – Laois also qualified from the group and they are paired with high-flying Wexford.
Westmeath were on the cusp of relegation to the Christy Ring Cup having lost to Kerry and Laois, but they did enough to scrape through a tense encounter with the Royals, prevailing by two points thanks to Killian Doyle’s second half goal.
The home side showed strong form in patches, putting together some excellent scores during the middle of the first half, and also when they kicked on after Doyle’s decisive goal in the just after 50 minutes.
However those flashes of good play were sandwiched in between some real fallow periods and there were several stages when it looked as if Meath were well poised to prevail, particularly at half-time when the lead was just three points.
Westmeath’s 0-09 to 0-06 lead at that stage looked precarious for two reasons – a fresh breeze was set to favour the Royal County after the interval, while Derek McNicholas had been sent off on a straight red card shortly before half time, leaving Westmeath with a man short for the second game in succession.
When that lead was cut to one point, 0-13 to 0-12, by the 50 minute mark the home crowd were entitled to feel very nervous.
However Doyle’s fine finish following Aonghus Clarke’s assist inspired another excellent burst of hurling from the men in maroon as they tacked on three more points to push seven clear.
Again Meath rallied however, with Daragh Kelly leading the way from full back, and after firing over three points in succession, they could have got right back into the contest only for a superb block from Paul Greville to deny Adam Gannon.
That was to be the closest Meath got to the goal they badly needed however and while two late frees from Seán Quigley brought them to within two, that wasn’t enough to save their status in the Leinster championship, meaning that they will revert to Christy Ring competition in 2018.
Westmeath: P Maloney; S Power, T Doyle, T Gallagher; A Craig, P Greville, C Shaw; A Clarke (0-02), G Greville; D McNicholas (0-01), K Doyle (1-03), C Boyle (0-01); A Devine (0-09, 0-06 frees), N Mitchell, R Greville (0-02).
Subs: N O’Brien for Gallagher (54), J Boyle for Mitchell (64), J Galvin for K Doyle (66), D Egerton for Shaw (72)
Meath: S McGain; S Whitty, D Kelly (0-02, 0-01 free), C Reilly; S Brennan, D Healy, K Keoghan (0-02); A Forde, S Geraghty; S Clynch (0-05, 0-03 frees), J Keena, K Keena; M O’Sullivan (0-01), N Heffernan, A Gannon (0-04).
Subs: J Kelly (0-02) for K Keena (26), G McGowan (0-01) for Heffernan (35+1), S Quigley (0-02 frees)