Westmeath hold nerve to secure promotion
Louth 2-7 Westmeath 1-10
Westmeath secured the prize of Division 2 football next year at the expense of Louth following a nailbiting draw yesterday.
The Lake men got the draw they needed thanks to a strong second-half display, with Ger Egan's penalty proving crucial.
Louth knew that nothing but a win would suffice if they were to gain promotion and they began the game well, with half-forward Ciaran Downey scoring two early points to put them in front.
Westmeath responded well and midway through the half they drew level at 0-3 apiece thanks to a fine Sam Duncan score from distance.
The first major of the game was scored by Louth, with captain Bevan Duffy leading by example with a storming run through the heart of the Westmeath defence before finding the bottom corner of the net with a fine shot.
The sides traded points as half-time approached and then Luke Loughlin ended the half with his second score for Westmeath to narrow the home side's lead to two points - 1-4 to 0-5 -at the break.
Westmeath couldn't have wished for a better start to the second half as Egan stroked home a penalty after Heslin was fouled by Louth's Emmet Carolan.
That put the men in maroon a point clear but Louth were given a chance to regain the lead shortly afterwards when they were awarded a penalty following a foul on James Califf. Jim McEneaney held his nerve as he buried the ball past Eoin Carberry to put the Wee County two points clear.
But Louth didn't score again for 22 minutes and Westmeath took the lead with three points on the spin.
With just three minutes remaining Louth drew level once again thanks to a fine score from the marauding James Craven, who stormed forward from the half-back line before slotting over the bar.
Crucially for Westmeath, they responded immediately, with Heslin scoring from close range to put his side a point ahead with time almost up.
Substitute Eoghan Duffy levelled for Louth in injury time to set up a frantic finale but the hoem side's fate was sealed at the death as Conor Early sliced the ball horribly wide with the last kick of the game to confirm Westmeath's promotion.
Jack Cooney's side will now face Laois in the Division 3 final.
Scorers - Louth: J McEneaney (pen), B Duffy 1-0 each; C Downey 0-3 (1f); J Califf, J Craven, S Mulroy (f) E Duffy 0-1 each. Westmeath: G Egan 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3fs, 1 mark); L Loughlin 0-3; D Carroon, J Heslin, S Duncan 0-1 each.
Louth: F Sheeky; F Donohue, E Carolan, J Craven; A Williams, B Duffy, J Clutterbuck; T Durnin 7, J Califf 7; C Brannigan, C Downey, J McEneaney; A McDonnell, S Mulroy, D Byrne. Subs: R Burns for D Byrne (44), E Duffy for A McDonnell (50), C Early for J Califf (55), R Nally for S Mulroy (59), C McKeever for J McEneaney (66).
Westmeath: E Carberry; K Daly, R Wallace, B Sayeh; K Maguire, F Boyle, J Dolan; S Duncan, D Corroon; J Smith, J Heslin, L Loughlin; R O'Toole, K Martin, G Egan. Subs: N Mulligan 6 for J Smith (31), J Halligan for Loughlin (70).
Referee: S Laverty (Antrim).
Sunday Indo Sport