While six points separated the sides at the finish, Westmeath made hard work of ending their losing run against Louth which had stretched to six straight defeats. Louth, without the services of as many as 11 first-choice players including inspirational midfielder Paddy Keenan, made a bold bid of upsetting the odds despite being reduced to 13 men before half time.
Louth led 0-3 to no score at the end of the opening quarter as Westmeath struggled to find their rhythm. Louth midfielder Mark Brennan got a straight red card for an off the ball incident in the 25th minute. Things went from bad to worse for the Wee County when corner forward Darren Clarke followed suit on the stroke of half time.
Westmeath trailed 0-7 to 0-5 at the break but with wind advantage to come and numerical advantage they were well set up for a comfortable win. Callum McCormack marked his introduction with the opening score of the second half. The home side held a three-point lead by the 50th minute. Remarkably Louth refused to accept their fate and three unanswered points saw them draw level by the 61st minute. John Heslin then received his marching orders on a second yellow having been intimidated throughout.
There was an uneasy tension among the home support at this stage but Callum McCormack settled nerves with an all-important goal. Westmeath finished strongly with points from James Dolan, Egan, Glennon, and McCormack as Louth ran out of steam.
The important thing is that we have ended our losing streak to Louth regardless of the circumstances and more importantly we are through to the next round of the qualifiers. Callum McCormack was superb when introduced at the break, kicking 1-3 and making the team of the week. The Maryland clubman must surely be given a starting place against the Kingdom. Darren Quinn kept a clean sheet on his championship debut.
There is no doubt that the absence of the likes of Gary Connaughton and Kieran Gavin robbed Westmeath of some much-needed experience. John Heslin did well to feature at all given that he had key-hole surgery just 10 days previously and he struggled to impose himself.
With that said, a massive improvement all around will be needed if we are to avoid a hiding when Kerry come to town on Sunday week for round two of the qualifiers. There were very few teams in the hat that Westmeath would be expected to beat especially given that performance.
Kerry will be sure to draw a good crowd to Cusack Park and with the weight of expectation on Kerry’s shoulders it is an opportunity for Pat Flanagan’s men to throw caution to the wind and see how they fare against a top-four team.