All-Ireland champions Limerick outscored bottom of the table Westmeath by 3-08 to 0-04 in the last quarter, thereby defeating a very plucky home side by a flattering 17-point margin in Mullingar.
Six Limerick scorers, including three placed balls from Aaron Gillane - two frees and a '65 after Noel Conaty had done well to save Gillane's goalbound shot in 16th minute - helped them to a 0-09 to 0-04 lead by first water break.
Wind-assisted Westmeath, who had suffered three very heavy beatings in their first four games, were hurling with great spirit and some fine points from play from Derek McNicholas and Aonghus Clarke kept them competitive.
Graeme Mulcahy opened his account on the half-hour mark, but the home full back line remained dogged, with Darragh Egerton particularly prominent. Niall O’Brien was accurate from frees and sub Josh Coll rounded off first scoring with a lovely point from play.
Seamus Flanagan picked off four points from play throughout the first half and he was replaced at the interval. The Liam MacCarthy Cup holders led by 0-14 to 0-10 at the break.
Much to the surprise of the 200-odd fans present, many of them sporting green and white colours, John Kiely’s charges failed to pull away from their hosts in the third quarter.
Coll superbly doubled his tally for a third unanswered Westmeath point in the 46th minute to leave his side trailing by just three points (0-16 to 0-13). Conor Boylan’s rasping shot hit the butt of the Westmeath post in the 53rd minute and Limerick only led by 0-18 to 0-14 at the second water break.
Limerick’s superior class showed in the final quarter and some high-profile players entered the fray to bolster the attack. The winners’ goals came courtesy of Kyle Hayes, Darren O’Connell and Pat Ryan in the 60th, 69th and 74th minutes respectively as a hitherto-resilient Westmeath defence began to tire.
However, Shane O’Brien’s troops undoubtedly ended their round robin matches on something of a high ahead of their upcoming Joe McDonagh Cup campaign.
For their part, Limerick will be all too aware that huge improvement will be needed for their Munster championship clash with Cork.
Limerick: N Quaid; J Boylan, R English (0-01), B Nash; B O’Grady (0-01), R Connolly, K Hayes (1-01); R Hanley, D O’Donovan; T Morrissey (0-03), P Casey (0-02), C Boylan (0-01); A Gillane (0-08, 0-05fs, 0-01‘65’), S Flanagan (0-04), G Mulcahy (0-01).
Subs: A Breen for Flanagan (h-t), P Ryan (1-00) for Mulcahy (49), W O’Donovan for Hanley (49), G Hegarty (0-01) for Morrissey (57), B Murphy (0-03, 0-02fs) for Gillane (61), D O’Connell (1-00) for Casey (61), D Morrissey for Hayes (62).
Westmeath: N Conaty; D Egerton, T Gallagher, C Shaw; A Craig, T Doyle, A Clarke (0-02); C Boyle (0-01), S Clavin (0-01); N O’Brien (0-06, 0-05fs, 0-01 ‘65’), D McNicholas (0-02), J Boyle; D Clinton, N Mitchell, C Doyle (0-03, 0-01f).
Subs: J Coll (0-02) for Clinton (27), K Regan for Craig (46), A Cox (0-01) for C Boyle (52), B Doyle for Egerton (61), S Williams for J Boyle (61), E Ahearn for O’Brien (65).
Referee: C Mooney (Dublin).