Gaule stands tall to swing it for Carlow
Carlow 0-14 Westmeath 1-9, Leinster SHC round-robin
CARLOW were good value for this victory at Dr Cullen Park, but they had to work every inch of the way for the points.
As the game ticked into injury-time, the scores were tied at Carlow 0-12, Westmeath 1-9.
However, it was the home side who showed the greater resolve to pull the game out of the fire at the end thanks to scores from Andrew Gaule and a Denis Murphy free.
Westmeath enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and by the end of the first quarter they were 1-4 to 0-2 ahead, with their goal coming from a Derek McNicholas penalty.
John Meyler's Carlow men were slow to settle as they relied on Murphy's free-taking to keep them in touch.
For Westmeath, Niall O'Brien was also solid from placed balls. Further back, their full-back line looked sharp as they did a good job cutting out deliveries into the Carlow full-forward line.
However, with Sean Murphy to the fore, Carlow battled into the game. Just before the break Carlow's Marty Kavanagh missed a penalty. The conditions certainly played a part as he failed to get a clean strike on the ball as the sides still went in tied, 1-5 to 0-8.
Carlow opened brightly in the second period with Sean Murphy lofting a beautiful score, but they were dealt a serious blow when Diarmuid Byrne was sent to the line for a second yellow card after 45 minutes with the score Westmeath 1-7 to Carlow's 0-10.
The visitors could not make best use of their numerical advantage as they persisted with trying to play the ball through the middle, where Carlow battled well.
Westmeath's Aonghus Clarke levelled it – 1-8 to 0-11 – after 48 minutes but the game became bogged down, with neither side scoring for over 10 minutes before Kavanagh notched a Carlow point.
A fantastic battle ensued from then to the end with a draw looking likely as Eoin Price for Westmeath and Paul Coady for Carlow scored the pick of the points. But with the final whistle imminent, Carlow found an extra gear with Eddie Byrne setting up Gaule for the lead point before a Murphy free made the victory certain.
Westmeath's Ciaran Curley was also sent to the line for two yellow cards, while Sean Murphy saw red for an off-the-ball incident late on.
The win means Carlow must wait to see how Westmeath and London get on in their final round-robin fixture next weekend before the final placings are decided, with the bottom of five teams relegated to Christy Ring hurling for 2015.
The second-from-bottom team will play the Christy Ring champions in a relegation/promotion play-off.
SCORERS – Carlow: D Murphy 0-7 (5fs), S Murphy 0-4, M Kavanagh, P Coady, A Gaule 0-1 each. Westmeath: D McNicholas 1-0 pen, N O'Brien 0-4 (4fs), A Clarke, E Price 0-2 each, R Greville 0-1.
Carlow – B Treacy; A Corcoran, S Kavanagh, G Kelly; HP O'Byrne, R Coady, D Byrne; J Kavanagh, P Kehoe; J Doyle, M Kavanagh, D Murphy, P Coady, S Murphy, A Gaule. Subs: C Wall for S Kavanagh (33), E Byrne for P Coady (57)
Westmeath – P Collins; K Duncan, T Doyle, L Varley; G Greville, A Craig, P Gilsenan; C Curley, E Price; R Greville, A Devine, D Gavin; P Reilly, D McNicholas, N O'Brien. Subs: A Clarke for D Gavin (12), T Gallagher for R Reilly (49)
Ref – J Keenan (Wicklow)