Westmeath took control of the Joe McDonagh Cup with a three-point win over Kerry, which puts them top of the group with maximum points from three games. 

The defeat leaves the Kingdom needing wins away to Meath and Antrim - and results to go their way - if they're to have a chance of making the top two.

A goal in either half was, in essence, the winning of the game for Westmeath, with Darragh Clinton's 53rd minute goal hauling the visitors back into the contest after they fell two points behind to a super sideline cut from Kerry's Jack Goulding.

It was 0-12 to 1-7 when Clinton latched onto Ciaran Doyle's pass and coolly finished past Martin Stackpoole to regain the lead, and in a tense finish Michael Ryan's men held on for a vital win.

What the game lacked in quality it made up for in tension, particularly the final quarter when the win was there for both teams. In the closing moments Kerry didn't help themselves when defender Bryan Murphy was sent off for a second booking, and two poor clearances from Stackpoole gifted Devine the last two scores of the game.

The first half was a tight but mediocre affair that ended with Westmeath going in at half time with a 1-7 to 0-8 lead, and it was Niall O'Brien's 16th minute goal that was the silver lining on an otherwise dull enough opening period.

It took eight and ten minutes of the game for Westmeath and then Kerry to mine their first scores, with a persistent heavy rain making ball handling and striking difficult for the players. By the quarter mark Kerry held a 0-3 to 0-2 lead before O'Brien latched on to a long delivery, turned and crisply struck the ball past Martin Stackpoole to give the visitors the lead.

An Allan Devine free stretched Westmeath's lead to three but Daithi Griffin and Shane Nolan responded with fine Kerry points as neither side could stamp any sustained period of dominance. Devine and Shane Conway shared four pointed frees to leave two points between the teams at the break.

Two Padraig Boyle frees had Kerry level by the 40th minute and they were two ahead 13 minutes later but then Clinton struck that decisive goal and Westmeath - despite hitting a plethora of wides - did just enough to hold out and go clear of Antrim and Carlow in the group.

Kerry: Martin Stackpoole, Sean Weir, John Buckley, Bryan Murphy, Brandon Barrett, Daniel Collins, James O'Connor 0-01, Shane Nolan 0-01, Brendan O’Leary, Dáithí Griffin 0-03, Mikey Boyle, Barry O'Mahony 0-02, Jack Goulding 0-01 s/l, Padraig Boyle 0-03 (0-02f), Shane Conway 0-03 (0-02f). 

Subs: Jordan Conway 0-01 for S Nolan (48), Daniel O'Carroll for J Goulding (69)

Westmeath: Paddy Carroll, Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville, Liam Varley, Paul Greville, Derek McNicholas, Eoin Price, Cormac Boyle 0-01, Ciaran Doyle, Robbie Greville, Aonghus Clarke 0-01, Niall O'Brien 1-02, Niall Mitchel, Allan Devine 0-07 (0-06f).

Subs: Joey Boyle 0-01 for C Boyle (blood, 22), Darragh Clinton 1-00 for R Greville (50), John Gilligan for E Price (58)