The Westmeath minor ladies’ football team turned in a much improved performance to overcome Laois in this high-scoring Leinster Ladies’ Minor Football Championship game played in Kinnegad GAA grounds last Friday evening.
By Paul O’Donovan
Having led by nine points midway through the second half, Westmeath withstood a late Laois rally to eventually run out deserving winners by seven points.
Having finished fourth in their group, Westmeath have now qualified to play neighbours Offaly in the B final, a game both sides will be eagerly looking forward to, having produced a cracking game earlier in this championship.
The Westmeath attack were certainly on fire in this game and took their opportunities very well, in particular Nicola Judge who finished with a personal tally of 3-4.
On a lovely, fine evening, Westmeath, with wind advantage behind them, got off to a good start, scoring the first three points of this encounter.
Two points from Nicola Judge, the first after just 20 seconds, were sandwiched by a good point from Amy Cully, as Westmeath led 0-3 to 0-0 after four minutes.
Laois opened their account through a Marie Byrne free a short time later and then they took the lead after 12 minutes when Orla Carroll fired home the first of the eight goals in this very entertaining game.
The Laois lead didn’t last long as Leanne Slevin brought Westmeath level from a free and then both sides traded points – Marie Byrne converting a free for Laois and Amy Cully pointing for Westmeath after a good pass by Amy Alford – to leave the sides level at 0-5 to 1-2 after 18 minutes.
Eight minutes later Laois took the lead following a great passing move. Vicki Byrne, Orla Carroll and Aisling Lacey were all involved before Kim Webster fired to the net, but just a minute later Westmeath equalised with a fine goal, Nicola Judge finishing high to the top corner of the net with the outside of her right boot, following a good pass by Keli Lei Lowry.
This goal was the signal for Westmeath to dominate proceedings as they outscored Laois 2-9 to 1-0 from the 27th minute until the 43rd minute.
Attacking half back Rachel Dillon and corner forward Keli Lei Lowry both added points before the break as Westmeath went in at half time leading 1-7 to 2-2.
Westmeath continued to dominate at the start of the second half with Nicola Judge adding a point, and then a goal in the opening three minutes, the goal arriving after a terrific solo run and pass through the centre by Leanne Slevin.
Laois stayed in touch though with a goal soon after, Mary Keating firing low through a number of players to the back of the Westmeath net.
But this Laois goal was soon cancelled out as Westmeath replied with three unanswered points as Nicola Judge, Ashley Ruane and Amy Alford all found the target.
The accuracy of the Westmeath forwards continued as Amy Cully, Ruane and Alford all scored again, to leave Westmeath ahead by 2-14 to 3-2, a nine-point lead midway through the second half.
If Westmeath thought they were home and dry, then they were wrong as Laois mounted a strong comeback. Orla Carroll scored a point and then Grainne Moran drove a free from off the ground sending the ball spinning into the bottom corner of the Westmeath net.
Amy Cully did respond with a point for the home side, but Laois struck again, scoring their fifth goal of the contest when Orla Carroll finished superbly to the Westmeath net.
Remarkably, while Westmeath appeared to dominate this game for long stages there were just three points between the sides now. However crucially Westmeath grabbed the next score, a goal, as Nicola Judge burst through the Laois defence to goal from close range, to complete a great personal tally of 3-4.
Laois could only manage one more point in the closing minutes, as Caoimhe Lalor pointed, and Westmeath completed the scoring with points from Shannon Lyons, a fine kick from distance, and Amy Cully from close range, to leave Westmeath victors by seven points at the end of this highly entertaining contest.
While there were eight goals in the game both goalkeepers, Emma Hooban for Laois and Emer Redmond for Westmeath, performed very well throughout.
Obviously Westmeath will be looking to tighten up in defence for their next game but this was a vast improvement on their showing against Kildare and hopefully they can reproduce this when they face Offaly in their next game.
teams and scorers
Scorers-Westmeath: Nicola Judge 3-4, Amy Cully 0-5, Ashley Ruane 0-2, Amy Alford 0-2, Leanne Slevin 0-1 free, Rachel Dillon 0-1, Keli Lei Lowry 0-1, Shannon Lyons 0-1.
Laois: Orla Carroll 2-1, Kim Webster 1-0, Mary Keating 1-0, Grainne Moran 1-0 from a free, Marie Byrne 0-2 from frees, Caoimhe Lalor 0-1.