THREE WINS on the bounce for Kevin Ryan's men means Carlow are now perched on top of division 2B in the national hurling league. Even though they were reduced to 14 men for the majority of the game after referee Sean Whelan dismissed Marty Kavanagh with ten minutes to go in the first half, Carlow were impressive and clinical in attack.
Westmeath lead 3-1 after 12 minutes thanks to Brendan Murtagh frees and a Paul Greville point after Marty Kavanagh had opened the scoring for Carlow in the seventh minute with a fine 55m free. Kavanagh pointed twice more and Craig Doyle finished off some magnificent hurling down the stand side from Roberts, Jack Kavanagh and Kehoe to put Carlow back in the lead at 4-3.
Three minutes after Marty Kavanagh's final point he was given a second yellow card having gone running towards goal with ball in hand, he had been booked earlier and so it seemed he was in trouble when the Westmeath player fell to ground. The referee indicated a form of striking action which made the sending off all the more strange.
Carlow united behind the disadvantage and Jack Kavanagh capitalised from Doyle and Gaule hard work with a message sending point. Murtagh converted a 65 for the visitors but Craig Doyle latched on to a wonderful pass from Jack Kavanagh and flung over under pressure and Shane Kavanagh walloped over a free from almost 70m and Carlow lead 7-4. Westmeath did puck the final three points of the half through Murtagh frees and a Clarke point but Carlow had played the better hurling and battled a strong breeze but still the sides were level 77.
The home side hurled with ferocious purpose in the second half with two new faces in Mark Brennan and Ross Smithers coming on at half time. Shane Kavanagh and Brendan Murtagh swapped frees in the opening three minutes however the next eight minutes won the game for Carlow as they scored 1-6 in fine style, the first a Paudie Kehoe free. Ross Smithers went tearing in on goal after Mark Brennan had taken a lovely pass from Eddie Byrne and laid it off to Smithers and the finish was emphatic with five second half minutes played.
His fellow sub Mark Brennan also got on the score sheet just before Smithers got a point of his own and both men combined in the same order for two further points and in between Craig Doyle and Eddie Byrne raised white flags to give Carlow a 114 to 0-8 lead.
Once again Brendan Murtagh and Shane Kavanagh swapped frees and Westmeath had no option but to go on the offensive. With fifteen minutes to play they finally started to use the extra man they had and scored five points on the trot. Smithers and Kehoe weathered the storm for Carlow with pressure relieving points and Smithers then bagged his second goal after a Martin Clowry pass and the job seemed to have been done.
One minute into injury time however Westmeath were awarded a 21m free in and Brendan Murtagh had no option but to go for goal. His hard shot spun off a Carlow hurley and into the net and two minutes later his point from the same position left Carlow just a little uncomfortable, but the result was never in doubt.