Westmeath retained their Division 1 status in Mullingar yesterday with a decisive win over a disappointing Carlow outfit, the visitors flattered to be defeated by just a six-point margin.
Killian Doyle was the star of the show at centre half-forward for the home team - scoring a whopping 1-14 in the process - while Tommy Doyle and Aonghus Clarke were very dominant in the central defensive positions.
Carlow suffered from a real off-day, with the highly-rated Marty Kavanagh missing four scoreable frees by his high standards in the first half alone, and they will play Division 2 hurling in 2021.
The bottom team in Division 1B can have no complaints after being out-hurled and out-fought by their counterparts from Division 1A.
Colm Bonnar's charges had the aid of the strong wind in the first half, but it was Westmeath who started the brighter.
They led by 0-3 to 0-0 with 12 minutes played, all from placed balls by Doyle (the third of them from a '65'), and he was already the dominant player on show.
Carlow's Ross Smithers is closed down by Niall Mitchell of Westmeath. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Carlow rallied to level the contest, but when Doyle's well-struck low shot from 30 metres found the back of the net in the 20th minute, his side held the advantage by 1-4 to 0-3.
Carlow were struggling to get into any sort of a rhythm as a hungry Westmeath side hooked and harried to great effect all over the pitch.
Derek McNicholas became the second Westmeath player to score with a delightful point in the 24th minute, and the Lake County men were good value for their seven-point lead at the half-time whistle (1-8 to 0-4).
Unanswered points from Diarmuid Byrne and Chris Nolan gave Carlow a sense of hope in the early stages of the second half.
Westmeath's Tommy Doyle changes direction on Ted Joyce of Carlow. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
However, Shane O'Brien's troops regrouped and subsequently fired over four points of their own - two from Doyle, and one each by Shane Clavin and Darragh Clinton.
A wonderful point from play by Doyle put the home team ahead by 1-15 to 0-8 with 58 minutes elapsed, and Westmeath looked to be on course for a facile win.
However, a converted penalty by Kavanagh just after the hour mark was followed by an improvised goal from Diarmuid Byrne three minutes later, when he hooked the ball to the net as the outstanding Clarke was attempting to execute a pass.
Westmeath deservedly held on and extended their winning margin when Doyle superbly converted a sideline ball and added a point from a late free with time almost up.
Robbie Greville of Westmeath and Carlow's Paul Doyle race for possession. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
That came shortly after Carlow's Chris Nolan had been sent for an early shower following a second yellow card offence.
Scorers - Westmeath: K Doyle 1-14 (10f, 1 s/l, 1 '65); S Clavin, D McNicholas, D Clinton 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3f); D Byrne 1-1; C Nolan 0-3 (2f); J Kavanagh 0-1.
Westmeath - A McHugh 6; D Egerton 6, T Doyle 8, C Shaw 7; A Craig 6, A Clarke 8, S Clavin 6; C Boyle 6, E Price 6; R Greville 6, K Doyle 9, D McNicholas 6; D Clinton 6, N Mitchell 7, J Galvin 6. Subs: L Varley 7 for Craig (h-t), J Boyle 6 for McNicholas (44), J Coll 6 for Galvin (49), A Ennis 6 for Egerton (53), J Gilligan for Clinton (67).
Carlow - D Jordan 6; R Smithers 5, P Doyle 6, M Doyle 6; A Corcoran 6, D English 6, G Bennett 6; K McDonald 6, A Amond 5; J Kavanagh 6, D Byrne 7, John Michael Nolan 6; C Nolan 7, M Kavanagh 6, T Joyce 5. Subs: Jon Nolan 7 for John Michael Nolan (inj, 18) E Byrne 6 for Joyce (44), P Coady 6 for J Kavanagh (55), R Coady 6 for Bennett (61), S Whelan for D Byrne (64).