Westmeath will play Leinster Senior Championship and Liam MacCarthy Cup hurling for the first time since 2017 next summer after they secured their first-ever Joe McDonagh Cup title at Kerry's expense.
The Midlanders were spectacular in the first half and solid in the second, taking a very early lead through an excellent Niall Mitchell goal and going on to lead by 2-16 to 0-13 at the interval, thanks In no small part to some incredibly accurate shooting with just three wides registered in that opening 35 minutes.
Mikey Boyle pulled back a goal for the Kingdom going in the last 10 minutes but Westmeath were able to hold a five- or six-point lead throughout before finishing up with consecutive points from Mitchell and Derek McNicholas to confirm the win.
In the end it was Westmeath's greater firepower up front that paved the way for their success, as 10 different scorers found the target for the Lake County.
Kerry, who had been hugely inconsistent over the course of this year’s league and championship and came into this game on the back of a defeat to Meath, looked sharper up front than they have done at any other stage, despite their talisman Shane Conway struggling in the face of strong opposition from Darragh Egerton and the Westmeath defence.
Kerry only led once in this game and that was when they got the first score on the board through Barry O’Mahony, but Westmeath’s response was emphatic.
Mitchell broke onto possession before gathering and rifling a fantastic effort to the roof of John B O’Halloran’s net.
Davy Glennon’s four first-half points helped Westmeath on their way, while they also got some excellent scores from Aonghus Clarke, Killian Doyle and Ciaran Doyle.
What was a healthy lead of six was then turbo-charged up to nine when Joey Boyle set up Cillian Doyle for a superb finish just before the interval.
Just when they needed scores most, Kerry struck four wides in the opening six minutes of the second half and Westmeath punished their inaccuracy with Cillian Doyle (two), Niall Greville, Niall Mitchell and Glennon all finding the target.
Three Kerry points in-a-row before the water break cut their arrears but already it was looking inevitable how this decider was going to play out.
Just short of the hour mark, Mikey Boyle handed the Kingdom a lifeline when he found the net. However, Westmeath refused to panic as their experience of playing Division One hurling shone through.
A Killian Doyle free and a fine Aonghus Clarke score settled any nerves, while Kerry struggled to get Shane Conway into the game and he was forced to drop further outfield looking for possession.
Despite this they cut their deficit to four points late in the game. However, Westmeath maintained their composure with late scores from McNicholas and Mitchell to secure their place in hurling’s top tier in 2022.
Westmeath: Noel Conaty, Darragh Egerton, Tommy Gallagher, Conor Shaw, Aonghus Clarke (0-02), Tommy Doyle, Aaron Craig (0-1), Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville (0-04), Davy Glennon (0-5), Killian Doyle (0-06, 3fs), Joey Boyle (0-01), Niall Mitchell (1-04), Ciaran Doyle (1-02), Niall O’Brien (0-02, 1f).
Subs: Michael Leane for Paudie O’Connor (ht), Josh Coll for Ciaran Doyle (55), Derek McNicholas (1f) for Killian Doyle (61), Shane Williams for O’Brien (67), Darragh Clinton for Boyle (71).
Kerry: John B O’Halloran, Eric Leen, Evan Murphy, Conor O’Keeffe (0-1), Jason Diggins (0-1), Fionnan MacKessy, Tomas O’Connor, Paudie O’Connor, Shane Nolan (0-2), Mikey Boyle (1-3), Daniel Collins (0-1), Padraig Boyle (0-7, 3fs), Barry O’Mahony (0-2), Shane Conway (0-4, 2fs, 1sl), Cian Hussey (0-3).
Subs: Micheal Leane for Paudie O’Connor (ht), Bryan Murphy for Tomas O’Connor (43), Maurice O’Connor for O’Mahony (54).
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).