Westmeath hold on to give Kelly a winning start in O'Byrne Cup
Westmeath 1-13 Laois 1-12
Judging by the paltry attendance, the locals in Mullingar were uninspired by the idea of the new season starting before the turn of the year as Westmeath got Colin Kelly's reign as manager off to a winning start.
Only a small scattering of supporters ventured to Cusack Park to see the home side emerge on top, with Westmeath laying the ground work for their win in the first half as they took a six point lead in at the break despite having played against a stiff breeze.
Both sides fielded a combination of new faces and established regulars as Kelly and his Laois counterpart John Sugrue got the first chance to see their sides in competitive action.
The game was littered with errors early on but Westmeath's Luke Loughlin, who lined out for New York when they almost toppled Roscommon in the Connacht championship in 2016, was one of the brightest lights in the opening exchanges.
He led the line for Westmeath early on and finished the half with 0-3 to his name. He was well supported by James Dolan who showed once more just how good he is at going forward when he got on the end of the fine move to goal just before half time and put Kelly's men in control.
Laois had their moments too but would only manage two points from play in the opening half. And when Sean Moore was put clear, Eoin Carberry was on hand to make a smart save and ensure Westmeath went in 1-7 to 0-4 clear at the break.
Laois improved a little on the restart and grabbed the first point of the half through a Gary Walsh free. However, Westmeath got one of their own after Kieran Martin and Dolan combined to set up Finbar Coyne for a well worked score.
Loughlin and Coyne added two more fine points for the home side before Brian Glynn replied for Laois with a pair of points from centre back.
Both managers took the chance to run their bench but Westmeath were in control and stretched their lead to seven points.
However, Paul Kingston breathed new life into the Laois challenge when he found the net on 60 minutes before two Gary Walsh frees suddenly cut the gap to just two with five minutes to play. Westmeath steadied the ship with a Loughlin point but there was late drama as Laois cut the gap to the minimum. However, Westmeath held on.
SCORERS - Westmeath: L Loughlin 0-5 (1f), J Dolan 1-0, C McCormack 0-3, G Leech (2f), F Coyne 0-2 each, D Corroon 0-1.
Laois: G Walsh 0-9 (7f), P Kingston 1-0, B Glynn 0-2, A Dowling 0-1.
Westmeath: E Carberry; K Daly, S Duncan, M McCallon; J Dolan, G Carr, N Mulligan; A Stone, D Corroon; G Leech, L Loughlin, N Scally; C McCormack, K Martin, J Egan SUBS: F Coyne for Leech (43), C Shanley for Martin (51), C Slevin for Egan (55), J Marshment for Scally (59), B Sayeh for Stone (65), B Kavanagh for Loughlin (70).
Laois: G Brody; D Holland, M Timmons, R Fennell; T Collins, B Glynn, O Buggy; J O’Loughlin, P McEvoy; A Dowling, P Kingston, A Farrell; S Moore, G Walsh, R Donagher SUBS: E Lowry for Buggy (25), D Luttrell for McEvoy (41), C Finn for Timmons (47), R Murray for Farrell (51), D Whelan for Donagher (53), F Crowley for Glynn (59).
Referee: P Maguire (Longford)