Defeated Antrim off the pace, admits Peden
Antrim 0-21 Westmeath 0-29
Antrim's hurlers' quest to reach the Joe McDonagh Cup final ended in disappointment on Saturday afternoon as Westmeath emerged eight point winners in Dunloy.
Killian Doyle was the star of the show for the visitors with 17 points - six from play - over the piece and while Neil McManus converted 13 placed balls of his own, the Westmeath defence snuffed out the hosts when going forward for the most part.
"We just didn't seem to get up to the level we wanted to," admitted Antrim manager, Neal Peden.
"They were a bit sharper early on and sucked us into places we didn't want to go.
"They seemed to have a lot of energy coming off a week's break and us coming off the high against Offaly trying to get back to that level, but it just didn't happen for us."
McManus and Doyle traded two points apiece early on, but when the Westmeath man added another two to make it 0-4 to 0-2 after 10 minutes, they never looked back.
Keelan Molloy did hit a tide score in reply for Antrim, but they had to wait until injury time for their next from play through Nigel Elliott, while Westmeath took over as Cormac Boyle, Derek McNicholas and Robbie Greville got in on the act to supplement Doyle as Westmeath built a 0-15 to 0-9 interval lead as their sharp, precise hurling was in contrast to Antrim's whose first touch was letting them down on a damp surface.
McManus and James McNaughton helped try to carry the fight in the second period for the hosts, but Westmeath always had an answer with Joey Boyle, Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville, Allan Devine and substitute Ciaran Doyle adding points alongside Killian Doyle.
Antrim were to finish with 13 players as both Matthew Donnelly and David Kearney were shown second yellows late in the game, but they mattered little as Westmeath had looked winners for a long time before to leapfrog Antrim into that June 30 final.
"When we look back (on the year) we'll see we have so many good hurlers that are of a young age," Peden added.
"If we can get them on a conditioning programme, then they will be a mature team in a few years because there is another level in them. We need to keep our leaders on board, but the young lads are the future of Antrim going forward."
Antrim scorers: Neil McManus 0-13 (12 frees, 1 65), James McNaughton 0-3, Keelan Molloy 0-1, Paddy Burke 0-1, Nigel Elliott 0-1, Eoin O'Neill 0-1, Nicky McKeague 0-1 (65).
Westmeath scorers: Killian Doyle 0-17 (9 frees, 2 65s), Robbie Greville 0-3, Cormac Boyle 0-2, Ciaran Doyle 0-2, Derek McNicholas 0-1, Allan Devine 0-1, Joey Boyle 0-1, Liam Varley 0-1, Darragh Clinton 0-1.