By Declan Rooney, at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe
Louise Ward’s goal after 18 seconds put Galway on the road to victory and Leanne Coen finished the job with a second-half brace as Galway claimed a second win and finished the TG4 ladies senior pool stages as Group 3 winners.
We’ll see a re-run of the Connacht final in the quarter-finals as a result of this win as Galway and Mayo will now battle it out for a spot in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 12.
With a stiff breeze blowing in Ballinasloe, Westmeath captain Laura Lee Walsh decided to play into the teeth of it after winning the toss, but it proved a crucial decision as her side remained pinned inside their own 45 for much of the half.
Their trouble stemmed from a regular inability to retain possession from their own kick-outs, and when Galway sensed a weakness they made great inroads by pushing as many as ten players up on the restarts.
Those hints were evident inside the first minute on the first Westmeath kick-out, but it arrived after Louise Ward’s powerful run from the throw-in saw Galway goal after just 18 seconds. Another 20 seconds saw Tracey Leonard off the mark, while Sarah Conneally made it 1-2 to 0-0 before two minutes were up.
The decision not to award a penalty to Westmeath a minute later seemed harsh following a trip on the impressive Johanna Maher, but after Tracey and Roisin Leonard pointed again for Galway, it was Maher who got Westmeath off the mark in the ninth minute.
Only a stray handpass from Roisin Leonard denied Galway goal number two after ten minutes, but straight from the restart the goal arrived when she robbed possession, swapped passes with her cousin and captain, Tracey Leonard, and had the easy task of hitting an empty net.
With Áine McDonagh in great form at midfield Galway continued to dominate and she kicked a super point in the 18th minute, while one each for the Leonards put Galway 2-8 to 0-1 ahead.
Westmeath did make an impact as Aoife Connolly and Lee Walsh pointed, but they needed a smart save from Karen Walsh to deny Roisin Leonard as Galway were good value for their 2-12 to 0-3 half-time advantage.
A smart Lisa Murphy save denied Lee Walsh straight after the restart and after that defensive slip Galway kicked on at the other end. Coen hit her first goal eight minutes into the second period and she bagged her second a minute later before she was given a rest by manager Stephen Glennon.
The one-way traffic continued despite three Galway yellow cards, and Sarah Conneally’s goal with ten minutes remaining was followed by number six from Emma Reaney, who was only on the pitch a few seconds, while Lee Walsh flicked to the net late on.
Scorers – Galway: L Coen 2-3, T Leonard 0-6 (2f), S Conneally 1-2, R Leonard 1-2, E Reaney 1-1, L Ward 1-0, A Davoren 0-1, O Divilly 0-1, A McDonagh 0-1.
Westmeath: A Connolly 1-2 (2f), LL Walsh 0-1, J Maher 0-1, F Coyle 0-1, MA Foley 0-1.
Galway: L Murphy; N Connolly, S Lynch, S Burke; C Cooney, E Flaherty, N Ward; L Ward, A McDonagh; A Davoren, T Leonard (c), O Divilly; S Conneally, R Leonard, L Coen.
Subs: C Cormican for R Leonard (h-t), F Cooney for Burke (h-t), M Seoighe for Coen (40), L Gannon for Lynch (51), E Reaney for Faherty (50).
Westmeath: K Walsh; N Feery, L Power, R Dillon; F Coyle, J Rogers, C Clarke McMahon; MA Foley F Claffey; A Dolan, L Slevin, J Maher; A Connolly, L McCartan, L Lee Walsh (c).
Subs: L Brennan for Clarke McMahon (22), K McDermott for Dolan (40), C Blundell for Slevin (51), A Jones for Dillon (54).
Referee: K Corcoran (Mayo)