Westmeath made to work for victory by Carlow
Westmeath 0-22 Carlow 2-15
Westmeath hurlers, who were already through to a Leinster SHC meeting with Galway, were pushed all the way yesterday by a spirited Carlow side before completing their Round Robin games with a third successive victory at Netwatch Cullen Park.
The game attracted a small crowd as Carlow were only playing for pride having already been condemned to Christy Ring championship hurling for 2017 through defeats to Kerry and Offaly.
But Pat English's side showed plenty of pride in this game, matching the Lake County score for score and few would have quibbled if they had shared the honours with the visitors.
Carlow made a storming start, full forward Seamus Murphy carving through the Westmeath defence to crash home a second-minute goal, which was quickly supplemented by a brace of points from right corner forward Denis Murphy.
Westmeath, playing into the strong wind, were slow to settle. They played an extra man in defence and played a possession game but many of their moves broke down and they found it difficult to establish any superiority, being continually harried by a Carlow team up for the challenge.
Westmeath did manage to contain Carlow following that early scoring burst and with the talented Niall O'Brien, nominally left full forward, doing great work outfield and picking off his scores, the Lake County were within two points (1-9 to 0-10) at the break.
Carlow continued to show in front after the break and it took Westmeath until the 54th minute to draw level through a Niall O'Brien point. Shortly afterwards substitute Killian Doyle put his side in front for the first time with a point from play (0-16 to 1-12).
With centre back Aonghus Clarke inspiring his men, Westmeath took control to establish a four-point lead due primarily to a flurry of late points from Brendan Murtagh.
Carlow responded with a fine individual goal from midfielder Conor Lawlor but Micheal Ryan's men held out for a narrow victory to maintain their 100pc Round Robin record, having previously beaten Offaly and Kerry.
In the final minutes Carlow centre back Richard Coady was sent off on a second yellow card.