By Daragh Small
Libby Coppinger shone as the 2016 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football champions Cork moved one step closer to another decider with a big win over Westmeath at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
This victory sets up a mouth-watering final four clash with reigning Ulster champions Donegal, and the Munster holders will be determined to move on after last year’s disappointing semi-final exit at the hands of Mayo.
Cork were already 3-5 to 0-3 ahead at half-time and the game was over as a contest. Coppinger, Eimear Scally and Áine O’Sullivan blasted goals for Ephie Fitzgerald’s side.
Leanne Slevin was a standout performer for the beaten Leinster finalists in the opening half but they were overwhelmed by their opponents.
Doireann O’Sullivan scored a fourth goal for Cork on the resumption, and the other goals came courtesy of Saoirse Noonan, Eimear Scally, Ciara O’Sullivan meaning Cork have now hit the net 23 times in five championship games this year.
Cork made a powerful start and after 37 seconds Coppinger had the ball in Karen Walsh’s net, following a pass from Ciara O’Sullivan.
Before the two-minute mark they had their second goal when Scally finished off an assist from Doireann O’Sullivan. And points from Orla Finn (free) and Doireann O’Sullivan gave Cork a 2-2 to 0-0 advantage after six minutes.
Cork continued to pile on the pressure and they looked like a side aiming for bigger things this year. Their work-rate was immense and at times they only had two players in the Westmeath half.
Westmeath finally scored their first point in the 19th minute when Slevin popped over a good effort but Coppinger cancelled that out straight away.
Stephen Maxwell’s side did score two more points before half-time, with Slevin (free) and Maud Annie Foley on target. But Finn scored her third point of the half to give her side a 3-5 to 0-3 advantage at the interval.
Doireann O’Sullivan scored first in the second half and her goal put Cork 14 points clear. Slevin hit back with her third point but there would be no comeback.
Noonan was introduced in the 38th minute and she scored 1-4. Her goal came with 15 minutes remaining. Scally scored her second goal soon after.
The seventh goal came from Ciaran O’Sullivan shortly before Aoife Connolly converted Westmeath’s consolation. And Ciara O’Sullivan finished things off.
Scorers – Cork: E Scally 2-3, C O’Sullivan 2-1, S Noonan 1-5 (0-2f), O Finn 0-7 (0-3f), L Coppinger 1-1, D O’Sullivan 1-1, A O’Sullivan 1-0. Westmeath: L Connolly 1-1, L Slevin 0-3 (0-2f), MA Foley 0-1, J Maher 0-1.
Cork: M O’Brien; E Meaney, R Phelan, M Duggan; M O’Callaghan, S Kelly, E Spillane; A Hutchings, D Kiely; C O’Sullivan, L Coppinger, E Scally; Á O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan, O Finn.
Subs: H Looney for Kiely (38), O Farmer for Á O’Sullivan (38), S Noonan for D O’Sullivan (38), M Ambrose for Duggan (49), C Collins for Kelly (49).
Westmeath: K Walsh; L Power, J Rogers, R Dillon; F Coyle, L Brennan, N Feery; MA Foley, A Connolly; F Claffey, L Slevin, J Maher; L McCartan, L Lee Walsh, A Dolan.
Subs: K McDermott for Dolan (24), C Blundell for Brennan (41), A Giles for Power (48), C Clarke McMahon for Feery (49), A Ruane for Slevin (49), A Giles for Power (59).
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry).