Westmeath have booked their place in the last four of the Leinster SFC following an eleven-point win over Offaly in today's quarter-final replay in Mullingar.
Three second-half goals from substitute John Egan and the influential duo of John Heslin and Kieran Martin between the 55th and 66th minutes helped the Lake men past their neighbours at the second attempt.
The reward for Tom Cribbin's charges is a semi-final date with holders Dublin at Croke Park next Sunday in what is a repeat of the last two provincial finals. For a demoralised Offaly side, a difficult All-Ireland qualifier against Cavan in two weeks' time awaits.
The midland rivals had to do it all again after they finished level on 0-10 apiece in their original quarter-final fixture in Tullamore six days ago in what was described as 'garbage' after both sides opted for a defensive approach. However, supporters at a hot and sunny TEG Cusack Park for the second instalment of this midlands derby were treated to a much more open game of football with some breath-taking scores in front of a crowd of nearly 5,000.
As in the drawn encounter, indiscipline let the Faithful down at a crucial stage with Westmeath hitting them for 2-3 after wing back Cian Donohue was dismissed on a second yellow card with less than 15 minutes to go. Before going down to 14 men, the visitors had kicked three points on the trot and a close finish looked to be on the cards.
Westmeath were never headed at any stage and, with John Heslin and late call-up Callum McCormack to the fore, they had opened up a 0-6 to 0-2 lead by the 13th minute. Offaly halved the deficit on a couple of occasions by playing patient football into the wind as Westmeath kicked some poor wides at the other end. However, two late points from Paul Sharry, including his second '45' of the half, ensured the hosts of a 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
Driven on by centre back Peter Cunningham, who kicked three magnificent long-range points in the second half, Offaly narrowed the gap to two again (0-10 to 0-12) before missing two chances to equalise. At the other end, Westmeath sub Denis Glennon rattled the crossbar, but the Offaly defence was finally breached when a quick counteract involving Paul Sharry and Kieran Martin culminated in another sub, John Egan, palming the ball to an empty net.
Heslin pushed Westmeath six clear, but Offaly weren't giving up and had the margin back to a goal thanks to a trio of points from Sean Doyle, Nigel Dunne and Cunningham. But the momentum swung back in the Lake County's favour after Donohue picked up a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Egan close to the terrace sideline.
Within four minutes, Heslin raised a second green flag after crashing a low shot past Alan Mulhall to make it 2-16 to 0-15. As Offaly visibly wilted in the heat, Heslin teed up Martin for another palmed major to put the seal on an eleven-point victory.
Westmeath - D Quinn; J Gonoud, K Maguire, K Daly; J Dolan, P Holloway, M McCallon; G Egan (0-1), A Stone; K Reilly, P Sharry (0-3, 2'45), A Gaughan; K Martin (1-2), J Heslin (1-6, 0-2f), C McCormack (0-1). Subs: F Boyle (0-2) for P Holloway, D Glennon for C McCormack, J Egan (1-0) for K Reilly, T McDaniel (0-1) for D Glennon, D Lynch for A Stone, N Mulligan (0-1) for A Gaughan.
Offaly - A Mulhall; B Darby, E Rigney, S Pender; N Darby (0-1f), P Cunningham (0-4), C Donohoe; C McNamee (0-1), D Hanlon; N Dunne (0-5, 3f), J Moloney, M Brazil (0-1); R Allen, G Guilfoyle (0-1), N McNamee. Subs: J Lalor for N Darby, B Allen for N McNamee, A Sullivan for M Brazil, J O'Connor for E Rigney, S Doyle (0-2) for J Moloney, D Hogan for D Hanlon.
Referee - R Hickey.