Brisk start by Westmeath delivers debut win for Cooney
Westmeath 0-12 Carlow 0-8
More often than not there's a lift when a new manager takes over and that was the case with Westmeath when a team, unrecognisable from recent championship sides, delivered victory in this O'Byrne Cup first round tie against Carlow in Netwatch Cullen Park, in Jack Cooney's first match in charge of his native county.
Westmeath are missing some important figures this season, most notably John Heslin, but on this evidence there are plenty willing to attempt to fill the sizeable gap left behind.
In an enterprising first-half Sean Petit showed plenty of potential in the full-forward line, while Joe Halligan also used his power to good effect beside him, as they built up a 0-9 to 0-5 lead with wind advantage.
At centre-forward Paddy Fagan also looked like he could force his way into any future conversation, while full-back Ronan Wallace made one vital interception at the end.
Carlow appeared to adapt less to the range of new rules, particularly the restricted handpass, but, going into his fifth year in charge, manager Turlough O'Brien is unlikely to be too discommoded by this result. The need to make a quick impression is not as pressing for him.
However, their more patient approach got them in trouble a few times in the first-half, with handpassing sequences twice reaching the prohibited four. For the second of those, Ciaran Moran's 'excess' resulted in a free which Petit converted for a 0-6 to 0-3 lead.
Carlow made some headway in the second-half and closed the gap to two points when Petit was sin-binned.
Around the middle Darragh Foley and Dan St Ledger made their presence felt, while centre-back Simon Doyle was effective driving forward. His delivery for Conor Crowley led to one of the few offensive marks, which Crowley quickly laid off in the 38th minute, only for Darren Lunney to have his shot smothered by Westmeath goalkeeper Kevin Fagan.
Westmeath, though, were able to call on the experience of Kieran Martin and talent of Luke Loughlin to see them home. Loughlin kicked three frees into the wind, two from lengthy distances, to make the game safe, on top of his enterprising running.
Scorers - Westmeath: S Petit 0-5 (3f), L Loughlin 0-3 (3f), J Halligan 0-2, P Fagan, K Daly 0-1 each Carlow: D Lunney, D Walshe (1f) 0-2 each, D Foley (f), S Doyle, L Walker, D St Ledger (f) 0-1 each
Westmeath - K Fagan; B Sayeh, R Wallace, G Carr; N O'Reilly, K Daly, C Slevin; S Flanagan, N Mulligan; A McGivney, P Fagan, J Maxwell; S Petit, J Halligan, T Watts. Subs: K Martin for Carr (h-t), L Loughlin for Watts (41), N Cully for Sayeh (49), C McCormack for Fagan (61), T Molloy for Petit (68)
Carlow - R Molloy; BJ Molloy, J Murphy, C Crowley; J Moore, S Doyle, D Lunney; J Kennedy, D Foley; S Clarke, P Broderick, L Walker; C Crowley, D Walshe, D St Ledger. Subs: C Moran for Broderick inj (9), D Thompson for Crowley (43), N Lowry for Kennedy (45), N Roche for Clarke (49), J Clarke for Moran (58)
REF - A Nolan (Wicklow)