Teenage kicks for super sub Burns
Louth 1-14 Westmeath 1-9
Teenage sub Ryan Burns was the hero for Louth as Aidan O'Rourke's men produced a strong final quarter to advance to a Croke Park showdown with Kildare next month.
Neither of these sides had won a game in the league and Westmeath seemed poised for victory in the second half, but Paul Bealin's men lost their way just when they had built a winning hand.
Burns, who has played minor and under 21 for Louth this year, got one chance when a ball broke kindly and he soloed through to put his side into a lead they never lost 11 minutes from the end.
Brian White became the first player to pick up a black card in championship football for a foul on Paul Sharry after 62 minutes, but it didn't impact on their domiance in the final quarter.
Louth took wind advantage in the first half, but neither that nor their decision to pack out their defence seemed wise when Westmeath opened up a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Westmeath countered Louth's crowded defence and midfield with some astute hand-passing and good running off the ball and a couple of John Heslin efforts and from Kieran Martin had the big home following in good voice. Louth got back into contention when they started using the ball more directly and Shane Lennon prospered on the edge of the square when long balls were delivered into him.
He got them off the mark after 15 minutes, Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire quickly added points to level the sides.
But Louth's shooting was wayward and 11 first-half wides meant that while they finished the half strongly, their lead was just three points with Westmeath trailing by 0-8 to 0-5 at the half-time break.
Maguire shot narrowly wide across goal for Louth, while at the other end debutant Ray Connellan had a snapshot saved by Louth goalkeeper Neil Gallagher.
But Declan Byrne and Maguire came more into the game for Louth and while Ger Egan tied the sides for the third time five minutes from the break, Aidan O'Rourke's men finished the half strongly.
Byrne edged them in front with a superb point from the right and then after McDonnell got his second point, Byrne landed a free from 45 metres to leave Louth a goal to the good facing into the wind.
Westmeath took over in the third quarter and after Heslin pointed, they got a huge breakthrough when Kieran Martin dispatched a shot to the top right corner after taking a pass from Callum McCormack after another kick-out from Neil Gallagher ended up in touch.
Westmeath seemed poised to pull away when James Dolan pointed after taking a pass from his cousin Dessie Dolan to put the home side in the driving seat at 1-8 to 0-9.
Louth captain Paddy Keenan, who managed to create a lot of space for himself in the second half, strolled forward to pick off another point but when Dessie Dolan responded after 51 minutes to put them two in front again, few would have envisaged that would be Westmeath's final score of the game.
But their shooting deserted them as their confidence shattered and eight second-half wides took a heavy toll on Westmeath. Then Burns got his chance and Louth never looked back with impressive corner-forwards Derek Maguire and Declan Byrne, tacking on a points to seal the win.
Scorers – Louth: D Maguire 0-5, D Byrne (2fs), P Keenan 0-3 each, R Burns 1-0, A McDonnell 0-2, S Lennon 0-1.
Westmeath: K Martin 1-1, J Heslin 0-3 (2fs), G Egan 0-2, D Glennon, Dessie Dolan, J Dolan 0-1 each.
Louth: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G O Hare; D Crilly, J O'Brien, A Reid; P Keenan, M Fanning; D Maguire, B White, A McDonnell; S Lennon, C Grimes, D Byrne. Subs: R Burns for Lennon (56), B Donnelly for Fanning (56), J Stewart for White (62), black card, P Reilly for Reid (67).
Westmeath: D Quinn; Damian Dolan, K Maguire, K Gavin; R Foley, P Sharry, J Dolan; D Duffy, R Connellan; K Martin, C McCormack, G Egan; D Glennon, J Heslin, Dessie Dolan. Subs: D McCormack for Connellan (29), D Harte for Damian Dolan (61), A Giles for C McCormack (65), J Gonoud for Foley (68).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).
Sunday Indo Sport