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Carroll lights up Louth

Super-charged Louth were crowned champions following a spectacular late burst of power-packed football at Croke Park last night.

Trailing by a point with a quarter of an hour to play, the Wee County dug deep and produced a storming finish to blow Westmeath's challenge apart.

A 1-4 blast in the final 10 minutes saw them over the finish line, and provided some consolation for a summer of nightmares on the same turf, when the Leinster final debacle was followed by a heavy qualifier defeat to Dublin.

For long stages it looked as if they were about to slump to another HQ defeat, but team captain Paddy Keenan demanded, and received, a massive effort from his players.

JP Rooney came off the bench to set up the only goal of the game for Ronan Carroll, and there was to be no denying Peter Fitzpatrtick's men.

Louth were able to pick holes in a leaky Westmeath defence in the early stages, crafting a couple of goal chances for Paraic Smith.

Louth moved the ball well, but experienced major problems with their finishing, Smith once again denied by Aidan Finnan's excellent goal-saving block.

Nevertheless, they looked comfortable at 0-5 to 0-2 with 25 minutes played. But Westmeath began to perform with some conviction, centre-back Finnan driving them on from deep and Denis Glennon beginning to look dangerous.

Lynam added two more to his tally, Paul Greville hit the target twice, and it was Glennon who gave them the lead for the first time in stoppage time with an angled effort that made it 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval.

They pushed further ahead early in the second half with stylish efforts from Lynam and Glennon.

Louth were less clinical in their finishing, and another goal chance came to nothing when smith's attempt top send Derek Maguire clear was thwarted by Kieran Gavin's crucial interception.

Andy McDonnell sliced over a spectacular point, but Westmeath were more clinical in their finishing, stretching the advantage out to three through Glennon and Greville.

But with the help of tireless midfield pair Keenan and Donnelly, Louth discovered a second wind, and a string of points had them level again, Donnelly's 48 metre free making it 0-11 each in the 55th minute.

And substitute JP Rooney made an immediate impact in the 60th minute when he dribbled through to poke in a shot, which was saved by Gary Connaughton, but Carroll was in like a flash to finish to the net.

Skipper Keenan was a man inspired, and there was no stopping the Louth men as they picked off late points through Ray Finnegan, Keenan and Maguire to seal the win.

Scorers -- Louth: R Carroll 1-3, P Keenan (1f) D Maguire 0-3 each, B Donnelly 0-2, L Shevlin, A Reid, A McDonnell, R Finnegan 0-1 each.

Westmeath: C Lynam (1f), P Greville (1f) 0-5 each, D Glennon 0-3

Louth: S Connor; E McAuley, A Hoey, G Hoey; R Finnegan, D Finnegan, L Shevlin; P Keenan, B Donnelly; D Crilly, M Brennan, A McDowel; P Smith, R Carroll, A Reid. Subs: J Carr for Hoey, D Maguire for Brennan, S Fitzpatrick for McAuley, JP Rooney for Smith

Westmeath: G Connaughtom; F Boyle, K Gavin, J Gaffey; G Egan, A Finnan, D Harte; B Murtagh, D Corroon; P Sharry, D Glennon, C Lynam; P Greville, J Dolan, D Glennon. Subs: K Maguire for Gaffey, K Martin for Finnan, S Quinn for Harte, M Curley for Sharry

Referee: R Hickey (Clare)

Sunday Indo Sport