Cavan 1-8 Westmeath 1-9
CAPTAIN Elaine Finn kicked the winning point as Westmeath staged a remarkable late fightback to win the TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate football championship final replay against Cavan at Croke Park on Sunday.
Westmeath’s victory was the county’s very first All-Ireland ladies football crown and was secured in the most dramatic fashion imaginable as the team joint-managed by Peter Leahy and Alan Mangan came from five points behind to land the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup.
Sub Gráinne Smith’s 48th minute goal handed Cavan a 1-8 to 0-6 advantage but that would prove to be the last score of the game for the Ulster outfit.
In the final ten minutes, Westmeath notched an unanswered 1-3 as Cavan completely fell apart following the sin-binning of influential wing-back Donna English with eleven minutes remaining.
Huge gaps opened up in the Cavan defence and Westmeath took full advantage as their strong running game exposed chinks in the Breffni armour.
Cavan also had Bríd Boylan sinbinned in the 35th minute but held their own during the ten minutes when the corner forward was off the pitch.
The loss of English, however, proved difficult to cope with and after Westmeath’s magnificent midfielder Maud Annie Foley began the fightback with a 50th minute point, influential wing-back Laura Brennan played her part two minutes later.
Strong-running wing-forward Johanna Maher was fouled before she shot for goal and although Laura Walsh turned Maher’s effort into the Cavan net, referee Sean Joy whistled back for a Westmeath penalty.
Brennan held her nerve and coolly converted to cut the deficit back to just a single point, 1-7 to 1-8.
Sub Sarah Dolan shot the equaliser in the 54th minute before Finn stormed forward to land a 55th minute winner.
Cavan, who scored just 1-4 from play during the game, searched in vain for an equaliser but Westmeath held firm.
At the end of a low-scoring first half, Cavan led by 0-4 to 0-3 but 19 minutes elapsed before Westmeath registered their first score of the game.
By then, Cavan, inspired by ace forward Aisling Doonan and captain, had notched four points although Westmeath should have netted in the early stages.
Laura Walsh blazed wide in the sixth minute when clean through on goal before Johanna Maher fisted Foley’s long-range free onto the crossbar two minutes later.
Scorers for Cavan: A Doonan 0-5 (4f), G Smith 1-1, Claragh O’Reilly & D Clerkin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: L Brennan 1-1 (1-0 pen), M.A. Foley 0-4 (1f), E Finn, L Walsh, F Claffey & S Dolan 0-1 each.
CAVAN: C McCutcheon; Ciara O’Reilly, G McGlade, C Kearns; R Murphy, P Crowe, D English; R Crowe, A Cornyn; R O’Keeffe, B Sheridan, E Costin; B Boylan, Claragh O’Reilly, A Doonan.
Subs: G Smith for Costin (h.t.), D Clerkin for Boylan (45), C Gray for O’Keeffe (50).
WESTMEATH: G Leahy; A Martin, G Kearney, T Durkan; L Brennan, J Rogers, M Malone; M.A. Foley, E Finn; L Walsh, R Kearney, J Maher; J Byrne, K Hegarty, F Claffey.
Subs: K.B. Jordan for Byrne (h.t.), E Morris for Hegarty (48), S Dolan for Kearney (50).
Referee: S Joy (Kerry).