Westmeath crowned Allianz FL D4 Champions
Allianz Football League Division 4 Final
WESTMEATH 2-24 WEXFORD 2-11
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Westmeath signed off on their Allianz football league campaign in style with a dominant Croke Park display to cap promotion from Division 4 with the title outright.
Tom Cribbin's 2015 and 2016 Leinster finalists were at their ease in disposing of a disappointing Wexford side that slipped to their third consecutive defeat.
It was Westmeath's first piece of silverware since beating Dublin in the Division 2 final in 2008 and sets them up nicely for a Leinster championship opener with Offaly on June 11.
John Heslin has been their prolific marksman throughout the league and top scored again with 0-8 while there were impressive performances from Man of the Match Kieran Martin, goalscorer Ger Egan and ex-captain Paul Sharry.
Substitute Shane Dempsey impressed late on and scored Westmeath's second goal in the 67th minute to wrap it up.
Wexford secured promotion after just five games but, worryingly for boss Seamus McEnaney, have now slipped to defeats to Westmeath, twice, and Championship opponents Carlow.
Wexford were under pressure for long stretches of the first-half as Westmeath, who kicked 14 goals in their group campaign, opened up with some excellent early attacking play.
Wexford had at least one sweeper in their own defence whenever Westmeath probed forward but still couldn't deal with the pace and creativity of the maroon men.
Kelvin Reilly and David Lynch were the only Westmeath forwards who didn't make the score sheet in the opening half.
The sides were level at 0-3 apiece after 11 minutes but Westmeath surged clear from there with an unanswered 1-4 to take control of proceedings.
Heslin scored two points during that burst of scoring while Egan's 17th minute goal arrived from the penalty spot.
Lynch was hauled down by Wexford defender Ronan Devereux for the penalty and Egan, after spotting the 'keeper diving early to the right, curled a low shot to the opposite corner.
Westmeath led 1-7 to 0-3 after 23 minutes though a Wexford goal at that stage came as a lifeline that hauled them right back into contention.
It was a cracker from Kevin O'Grady too who took a pass from John Tubritt and evaded three defenders before firing a left footed shot across the 'keeper to the right corner, 1-7 to 1-3.
A free-flowing encounter kicked into overdrive at that stage and both 'keepers pulled off excellent saves to stop any more goals from flying in.
Westmeath closed out the half strongest with points from Tommy McDaniels, Martin and Sharry to lead 1-11 to 1-4 at the interval.
Wexford needed a storming second-half but it never arrived as Westmeath kept the foot on the gas and secured their first final win at Croke Park since the 2004 Leinster decider.
Martin was excellent throughout and added to his haul after the break while O'Reilly made it onto the score sheet in the 44th minute.
Free-taker Heslin conjured his best form in the final quarter of the game and hit his first points from open play while sub Dempsey nailed a fortunate goal when his shot in from the right was fumbled by the 'keeper.
Wexford sub Donal Shanley pulled a consolation goal back late on for the Model County and finished with 1-2.
Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-8 (0-5f), Ger Egan 1-2 (1-0 pen), Shane Dempsey 1-1, Kieran Martin 0-4, Paul Sharry 0-3, Tommy McDaniels 0-3, John Connellan 0-2, Kelvin Reilly 0-1.
*Scorers for Wexford: *Donal Shanley 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1 45), Kevin O'Grady 1-1, Ciaran Lyng 0-4 (0-3f), PJ Banville 0-2, Michael Furlong 0-1, Daithi Waters 0-1.
WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Kevin Maguire, Mark McCallon, Jamie Gonoud; James Dolan, Killian Daly, Noel Mulligan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry, David Lynch; Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Tommy McDaniels.
Subs: Denis Glennon for Daly (48), Shane Dempsey for McDaniels (52), Denis Corroon for Stone (55), John Egan for Mulligan (57), John Connellan for Martin (62), Callum McCormack for Lynch (66)
WEXFORD: Shane Roche; Ronan Devereux, Jim Rossiter, Michael Furlong; Brian Malone, Eoghan Nolan, Kevin O'Grady; Daithi Waters, Colm Kehoe; John Leacy, Ben Brosnan, Paul Curtis; Ciaran Lyng, John Tubtitt, PJ Banville. Subs: Conor Carty for Curtis (29), Adrian Flynn for Leacy (h/t), Michael O'Regan for Devereux (h/t), Donal Shanley for Brosnan (43), Joey Wadding for Tubritt (51), Tiarnan Rossiter for Nolan (56). Carty black card (63).
*Ref: *Paul Faloon (Down).