By Jackie Cahill at Parnell Park, Dublin
Cavan 0-15 Westmeath 2-9
Maud-Annie Foley’s late point secured a draw for Westmeath against Cavan in the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 2 final at sun-splashed Parnell Park.
Foley popped over the equaliser to ensure that Westmeath avoided final defeat for the third time in four seasons.
Westmeath have been knocking hard at the promotion door but lost out to Galway in 2014 and Donegal last year.
And on the balance of play, Cavan will look back on this final as one that got away.
Both teams will do it all over again next weekend for the right to play top-flight football next year and while Cavan looked to have the edge in the overall exchanges, two goals from Ciara Blundell at crucial times kept Westmeath in touch.
The Lake County also showed real resilience down the home straight to force a draw, as full-back Amie Giles was sin-binned with 12 minutes remaining.
Giles was fortunate to avoid a yellow card for a foul on Sinead Greene in the first half but she didn’t escape on this occasion.
Cavan looked to have put the game to bed when they established a four-point lead, 0-15 to 1-8.
But there was still plenty of time for Westmeath to rally and Blundell’s second goal, with nine minutes left, brought them back to within a point.
In the 57th minute, experienced midfielder Foley took charge of matters to score the leveller and ensure a second day out.
Cavan were the better side in the first half, registering six wides but also eight points.
In response, Westmeath had 1-2 on the board by the interval, and they would have taken a three-point interval deficit bearing in mind Cavan’s bright start.
With Aisling Doonan showing up well, and scoring a couple of cracking early points from play, Cavan built a solid platform and led 0-6 to 0-1 within 14 minutes.
But Blundell finished a fine team move for a crucial Westmeath goal in the 14th minute and they held firm from there until the break against a Cavan side playing with the breeze in the opening half.
Cavan opened the second half with a 0-8 to 1-2 lead and they pushed on to lead by five, with Claragh O’Reilly and Doonan (free) on target with points.
But Westmeath, who had a big contribution from sub Johanna Maher before she went off again, refused to lie down and kept in touch.
Stephen Maxwell's charges cut Cavan’s lead back to two points on three separate occasions during a tit-for-tat period on the scoreboard.
Points from Donna English and Doonan (free) had Cavan four ahead as the clock ticked down but Westmeath’s late rally forced a replay.
Scorers for Cavan – A Doonan 0-7 (5f), C Smith & C O’Reilly (1f) 0-2 each, M Sheridan, S Greene, D English & A Sheridan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath – C Blundell 2-0, K McDermott, M.A. Foley, J Maher & L Archibald (2f) 0-2 each, F Claffey 0-1.
Cavan – E Walsh; R Doonan, A Cornyn, M Sheridan; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, S Reilly; S O’Sullivan, D English; C Smith, A Rooney, N Byrd; A Sheridan, C O’Reilly, A Doonan.
Subs: G Smith for Rooney (43), S Lynch for R Doonan (46), R Jordan for Byrd (49).
Westmeath – K Walsh; R Dillon, A Giles, A Martin; F Coyle, R Dunne, L Brennan; K McDermott, M.A. Foley; F Claffey, L Archibald, K Boyce-Jordan; L McCartan, L Walsh, C Blundell.
Subs: J Maher for Boyce-Jordan (36), L Slevin for Brennan (41), C Kelly for Maher (60).
Referee: S Mulvihill (Kerry)