Westmeath 3-17 Louth 1-11 (Report from independent.ie, photos by craic-a-smile photography)
Louth suffered their fifth defeat in six matches but still progressed to the Leinster LGFA IFC semi-finals in spite of a 12-point defeat by Westmeath in Ballinlough on Saturday evening.
Ultimately, Wicklow’s triumph against Offaly on Sunday was enough to propel Kit Henry’s misfiring side into this weekend’s knockout round duel with Kildare in Hawkfield but the most notable moments from last Saturday’s chastening outing were from the Lake County, who appear keen to return to the senior grade at the first time of asking.
Classy corner-forward Aoife Dolan became only the third ladies’ footballer to score a 45 (since the rule change was introduced) for which she earned two points as the maroons prevailed quite easily.
Westmeath swooped for three first half goals which laid the platform for a comprehensive win in this third round match. With victories over Offaly and Wicklow safely in the bag, Aoife Connolly and Anna Jones pounced for quickfire goals in the 10th minute before midfielder Vicky Carr fisted home her side’s third major in the 28th minute.
That gave the victors a commanding, 3-6 to 0-6 cushion at the interval and while Lauren Boyle, on her return from injury, raised a green flag for the Reds on 40 minutes, there was never any possibility of a revival effort and Louth look to have it all to do if they are to make any sort of impression over the remainder of their provincial championship campaign.
The Wee women actually took the lead inside 20 seconds when Newtown Blues ace Laura Collins pointed following good work by captain Áine Breen and Niamh Rice. But Westmeath heeded their early warning and Aoife Connolly levelled from a free before Anna Jones put the winners in front for the first time.
Rice equalised but the stalemate was short-lived as Westmeath reeled off 2-4 without reply to move into an unassailable advantage. And when Carr pawed a third major past Rebecca Lambe-Fagan, the gap was 12 points and Louth looked to be heading for a heavier drubbing.
But Louth got the final three scores of the half, showing they were fully intent on keeping this competitive: Collins notched a couple of frees and Kate Flood shot over from play, reducing the deficit to nine points at the interval.
Westmeath began the second half impressively and Jones set-up Connolly for a splendid point to extend the lead. They should have added to that when Rachel Dillon started a move that led to a chance for Connolly, who just lost possession at the vital stage.
Connolly converted a 45 with a superb strike off the turf to earn a deserved bonus and the gap was once again 12 points. Louth showed determination and when Collins’ shot came off the upright, Boyle, who was only introduced at the break, pounced to score a goal.
That was a solitary chink of light in an otherwise disappointing second half effort in which both Aoife Halligan and Flood were shown yellow cards, with Breen and Rice notches of the consolation variety across the closing quarter.
WESTMEATH: Lauren McCormack; Katie Dunne, Lucy Power, Ayesha Roche; Kelly Boyce Jordan, Tracey Dillon, Chloe Kelly; Vicky Carr 1-0, Johanna Quinn 0-2; Ashley Ruane, Ciara Blundell 0-2, Rachel Dillon; Caoimhe Clarke McMahon, Anna Jones 1-1, Aoife Connolly 1-9 (0-4f, 1 45 (0-2)). Subs: Laura Kiernan 0-1 for Ruane (46), Karen Hegarty for Clarke McMahon (49), Annie Dolan 0-1 for Blundell (54), Mairead Newman for Quinn (55), Aoife O’Malley for T Dillon (57).
LOUTH: Rebecca Lambe-Fagan; Eimear Murray, Dearbhla O’Connor, Eilis Hand; Seoda Matthews, Shannen McLaughlin, Mia Duffy; Áine Breen 0-2, Aoife Halligan; Laura Collins 0-3 (2f), Niamh Rice 0-4 (2f), Rachel Beirth; Aoife Russell, Kate Flood 0-2, Céire Nolan. Subs: Holly Lambe-Scally for Beirth (22), Lauren Boyle 1-0 for Duffy (HT), Katie Doheny for O’Connor (HT), Abi Keenan for Nolan (50), Ciara Woods for Russell (50), Roisín Maguire for Collins (56).
REFEREE: Sinéad McHugh (Dublin).