Carlow probably played their last game of the season while Westmeath's kicked off their summer with a first win of the year at Netwatch Cullen Park as a late surge of scores from the Lake County delivered a crucial 0-23 to 0-18 victory in this Joe McDonagh Cup clash.
Neither county managed to register three scores unanswered at any stage in the first hour of this game, so when Carlow took the lead for the first time through Chris Nolan’s eleventh point with just over 12 minutes to play, the wind-assisted home side looked like the more likely winners at that stage of proceedings.
Westmeath’s bench was to turn out to be the crucial difference between the sides however, as four of their last six points came from a key contribution by a replacement.
Davy Glennon won a free which Killian Doyle converted while Alan Cox, Josh Coll and Darragh Clinton all found the target. This contrasted sharply with Carlow, whose only scorer in the second half was Nolan.
The first half was a tight affair with Westmeath struggling to take advantage of the breeze at their backs.
A free from Niall O'Brien from his own 45-metre line illustrated the strength of the wind, but it also blew across the ground from the stand side of the field and players at both ends found it difficult to manage. Niall Mitchell was the main threat in the Westmeath attack, scoring one excellent point himself but also winning frees and bringing his colleagues into the game.
Carlow were struggling to create clean and easy scores but they had the advantage of controlling the puck-out, particularly their own restart when sent down the right hand side of the field where they set up numerous opportunities.
The home side would have been the happier side at the break but they struggled to push on after half time with Westmeath’s back division, particularly their full-back line, in complete control.
Westmeath moved into a two-point lead but two scores from play from Chris Nolan – capitalising on misplaced Westmeath passes – cancelled that out, and by the second-half water break it was impossible to pick a winner.
Carlow’s took their first lead of the game in the 58th minute in a nip and tuck encounter where there was real nervousness on display from both sides, but they couldn’t find a way past the Westmeath backs for the remainder of the game.
Conor Shaw, Darragh Egerton and Tommy Doyle all made huge turnovers to rouse their colleagues and increase Carlow’s nervousness on the ball, and as the home side pushed forward, Westmeath were able to pick off good scores on the break to add to the eventual winning margin.
That could yet be crucial in the event of a narrow Kildare win at TEG Cusack Park next week.
Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Gallagher, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Tommy Doyle, Aonghus Clarke (0-01); Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville; Joey Boyle (0-03), Niall O’Brien (0-06, 0-04 frees), Derek McNicholas; Niall Mitchell (0-02), Ciarán Doyle (0-02), Killian Doyle (0-06, 0-04 frees).
Subs: Shane Clavin for Greville (30), Davy Glennon for McNicholas (ht), Josh Coll (0-01) for Clarke (48), Darragh Clinton (0-01) for O’Brien (60), Alan Cox (0-01) for Boyle (62).
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Dion Wall, Paul Doyle, Tony Lawlor; Ger Coady, James Doyle, Michael Doyle; Richard Coady, David English (0-01); Jon Nolan (0-03), Chris Nolan (0-11, 0-07 frees), Kevin McDonald; Ted Joyce (0-02), John Michael Nolan (0-01), Aaron Amond.
Subs: Jack Kavanagh for R Coady (57), Gary Lawlor for Amond (59), Craig Wall for G Coady (66), Jack McCullagh for JM Nolan (69), Paul Coady for Joyce (70+1).
Referee: Rory McGann (Antrim).