John Heslin kicked a late insurance score for Westmeath at Cusack Park
by Paul Hughes
Westmeath 0-16, Louth 2-9
Westmeath kicked off their Allianz National Football League Division 2 campaign with a significant and psychologically crucial win over bogey side Louth in Mullingar.
Despite being a man down and six points adrift at one stage, Pat Flanagan's charges dug deep to carve out an ideal start to the league, and a jolt of positive vibes ahead of next weekend's trip to Longford.
Second half points from Callum McCormack, John Heslin and Dessie Dolan contributed to a spirited Westmeath comeback, putting an end to an enduring league hex cast by the Wee County.
Another poor league start loomed for the hosts, after first half goals from Louth's Adrian Reid and Colm Judge put Westmeath on the back foot.
Shortly after Judge's 20th minute goal, matters went from bad to worse for the Lakesiders when Garrycastle's Doron Harte was sent off.
But Westmeath recovered well, trailing by only a kick of a ball (2-4 to 0-7) at the break.
Louth began to pull away, but three consecutive points brought Westmeath back into contention, with Maryland's Callum McCormack leading by example up front.
The introduction of Dessie Dolan reaped immediate benefits, with the All-Star kicking the equaliser for the Maroons, to set up a grandstand finish (2-7 to 0-13).
Shane Lennon edged the visitors in front again, but Westmeath defended and attacked manfully, taking a 0-15 to 2-8 lead, before John Heslin kicked the insurance score.
Elsewhere today, Westmeath's ladies kicked off their TESCO HomeGrown Ladies' National Football League Division 2 journey with a vital win over old rivals Cavan in St Loman's Lakepoint Park.
The 3-10 to 2-11 gives Martin Flanagan's troops a much-needed boost ahead what's expected to be a tough league campaign.
However, this weekend wasn't so kind to Westmeath's minor footballers, who lost out to Longford at the same venue on Saturday, in the first round of the Leinster Minor Football League.
Tom Carr's lost 2-9 to 1-7 after Longford bossed the first half.
For reports and analysis on these and other fixtures, as well as coverage of this year's Westmeath Examiner Sports Stars of the Year Awards, see Wednesday's Westmeath Examiner.