By Declan Rooney
Dublin are the TG4 Leinster ladies senior champions for a seventh year in a row, as they proved far too strong for Westmeath in Netwatch Cullen Park.
The game started at a whirlwind pace, with Sinead Aherne pointing for Dublin after just 13 seconds. Westmeath drew themselves level with a point from Leanne Slevin, and before the second minute had elapsed the game had its first goal.
Niamh McEvoy's strong run got her through the Westmeath rearguard, and she found the back of the net with the aid of the post. Hannah O'Neill added another point for Dublin, and already it looked like it would be one-way traffic, as they lead 1-2 to 0-1 with only three minutes played.
Nicole Owens became the fourth Dublin scorer when she pushed them five ahead before Westmeath found another reply, this time Annie Dolan rounding off a nice move. Noelle Healy and Maud Annie Foley swapped scores before the scoring touch eluded both teams for almost 15 minutes, with the pace of the game dropping.
Dublin eventually brought some life back to proceedings when a neat passing move started by Sinead Aherne ended with Noelle Healy blasting to the net from close range.
Westmeath looked in major trouble, but got back into it in spectacular fashion. Aoife Connolly tapped over a free, and then intercepted a loose pass 30 yards out, settled herself, and lobbed Ciara Trant with a brilliant shot that flew into the top corner.
It was 2-4 to 1-4 now, but with Dublin sensing danger, they finished the half strongly. Aherne slotted a free and then Lyndsey Davey powered home their third goal, and they held a 3-5 to 1-4 lead at the break.
The opening stages of the second-half saw Dublin strengthen their grip on proceedings, as Sinead Aherne kicked three points in nine minutes, with Aoife Connolly offering the sole reply for Westmeath, from a free.
With the smell of blood in their nostrils, Dublin soon had a fourth goal, as Niamh McEvoy cut a perfect line through the Westmeath defence and held her nerve to slot low past Karen Walsh.
That score sucked the competitive element from the game, although things did finish with a flourish as goal from Sinead Aherne and Leanne Slevin (penalty) came in the closing minutes. However, there was no denying this Dublin side, as they cantered to a seventh Leinster title in a row.
Dublin are now into Group 4 for the round-robin phase of the All-Ireland qualifiers, alongside Mayo and Cavan, while Westmeath have been paired with Connacht champions Galway and Munster outfit Waterford in group 3.
Meanwhile, Galway defeated Cavan to reach the All-Ireland minor A final, where they will face champions Cork, who accounted for Dublin in the other semi-final. In the B final, Roscommon will face Kildare on July 15 after their respective wins over Antrim and Waterford.
Scorers – Dublin: S Aherne 1-5 (0-3f), N McEvoy 2-1, N Healy 1-2, L Davey 1-0, H O'Neill, N Owens & A Connolly 0-1 each
Scorers – Westmeath: L Slevin 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), A Connolly 1-2 (0-2f), MA Foley, J Maher & A Dolan 0-1 each.
Dublin: C Trant; M Byrne, S Finnegan, K Fitzgibbon; S Goldrick, D Murphy, L Caffrey; O Carey, N McEvoy; N Owens, S McGrath, H O'Neill; S Aherne, N Healy, L McGinley.
Subs: C Rowe for O'Neill (25), N Collins for Murphy (HT), L Magee for Carey (39), A Connolly for Owens (41), M Ni Scanaill for Caffrey (50).
Westmeath: K Walsh; L Power, J Rogers, R Dillon; F Coyle, K McDermott, N Feery; V Carr, F Claffey; A Dolan, L Slevin, MA Foley; A Connolly, L Walsh, L McCartan.
Subs: A Jones for Carr (30), C Blundell for Connolly (45), J Maher for Dolan (45), A Ruane for Power (52).
Referee: Stephen McNulty (Wicklow).