Despite a purposeful and plucky performance Westmeath still exited the Leinster under 21 Hurling Championship at Cusack Park, Mullingar on Wednesday evening.
It was a bitterly disappointing climax for Westmeath, who had contributed so much to a tense match ultimately decided by goals from Colm Cronin and substitute Cian Boland.
Late on with the teams level Westmeath were awarded a penalty, but Niall O’Brien’s effort with three minutes remaining was saved. O’Brien, who scored eight points, was fouled, but Dublin survived a serious scare.
Then to compound matters for Westmeath, Boland booked Dublin’s July 9 provincial decider date with Wexford, who cruised to a facile victory over Offaly in the other semi-final.
Initially Westmeath, who entered the encounter quietly confident of springing a surprise, were testing Dublin. By the time the interval came the visitors were fortunate to be on terms as Westmeath had been gutsy from the first whistle.
A delightful goal from Cronin edged Dublin 1-3 to 0-2 clear, but Westmeath replied to restore parity and it stayed keenly contested. After the restart it followed a similar pattern as a 42nd minute Boland goal gave Dublin the initiative.
Again Westmeath came swinging back as O’Brien was sharp from frees before the late drama occurred. Unfortunately just as Westmeath sensed that a shock was possible O'Brien's penalty was repelled and then Boland landed the decisive blow as Dublin just about held on.
Dublin: C Dooley; S McClelland, C O’Callaghan, M McCaffrey; E O’Donnell, R Murphy, C Crummy; D Gormley, C Robinson; C Cronin (1-0 ), K O’Flynn, P Winters (0-4, 3fs ); C Conway (0-2 ), A Clabby (0-1 ), O O'Rorke. Subs: C Boland (1-1 ) for Conway (31 mins ), A Jameson Murphy for O'Donnell (44 mins ), T Devlin for Gormley (47 min ), F McGibb for O'Flynn (52 mins ),
Westmeath: K Glennon; P Fennell, T Doyle, L Varley; G Greville, T Gallagher, M Heaney; D Fennell (0-1 ), D Lynch; R Greville (0-2 ), A Clarke (0-2 ), D Higgins; N O'Brien (0-8, 7fs ), C Scally, J Boyle. Subs: N Kirby for Scally (52 mins ), C Scally for D Fennell (55 mins )
Referee: K Brady (Louth )