A dominant display from All-Ireland Intermediate champions Westmeath proved altogether too good for a brave but over-powered Leitrim in last Saturday’s Bord Gais Energy Ladies Division 3 Final replay in Emmet Park, Killoe.
Leitrim 1-7 Westmeath 1-11
It was only in the final ten minutes that Westmeath managed to shake off a brave and defiant Leitrim on the score-board but the truth was that Leitrim’s defence and midfield were under immense pressure for the entire game.
Westmeath dominated last Saturday’s replay so convincingly that had their converted a quarter of their squandered opportunities, scores that would have reflected just how dominant the midlanders were, the replay would have been over long before the final whistle sounded.
Between wides, wasted and blocked goal efforts and shots that dropped short, Westmeath amassed 22 missed scoring chances to Leitrim’s eight over the almost 75 minutes of action with Michelle Guckian making a couple of superb saves and Sinead Tighe using her face to block an almost certain goal.
Leitrim resisted and resisted as ferociously as they could but the intense pressure on the backline finally told an the wasteful Westmeath attack finally found their scoring range in the closing minutes to seal what every Leitrim supporters present in the picturesque Emmet Park had to admit was a well deserved victory.
Leitrim also had their chances but Westmeath keeper Christine Warburton, unfortunately for Leitrim, matched Michelle Guckian’s heroics with two absolutely vital blocks as the Leitrim attack were forced to live off scraps for the majority of the contest.
With Aine Tighe again demonstrating her class as a player of national class, the over-reliance on the Kiltubrid woman didn’t help Leitrim’s cause once Westmeath’s impressive Maud Annie Foley & Ruth Kearney got a grip on the middle of the field.
Westmeath also changed their attacking approach, sending the ball long into Laura Walsh and Karen Hegarty with support runners charging in, not allowing Leitrim to set up the defensive strategy that served them so well in the drawn game.
With the Westmeath half-forwards cutting through the centre of the field, the Leitrim attack was starved of possession but once Tighe got any sort of service, Westmeath were generally in trouble but the trouble was that the longer the game went on, the more dominant Westmeath became in the middle of the field.
The sin-binning of Lorraine Brennan didn’t do much lasting damage as Leitrim defending excellently but the intense pressure started to tell as Leitrim’s backline picked up injuries that must have played a part in Westmeath’s absolutely dominant final quarter.
Aine Tighe was again a star for Leitrim while Michelle Guckian was impressive in the Leitrim goal while Sinead Fowley & Sharon Kerrigan shone in bursts but the reality was that Westmeath were generally dominant in every sector of the field last Saturday.
Westmeath opened brightly despite four wides in the first seven minutes and an Aine Tighe point but two Foley frees and a cracking goal from Karen Hegarty put the midlanders on the road to victory. It could have been worse as Laura Walsh was twice denied a goal, Michelle Guckian making a great save and Sinead Tighe blocking the follow-up with her face on the line.
Two Tighe frees settled Leitrim with Foley replying before the Kiltubrid woman scored a remarkable effort from the corner after a long free in from sister Niamh.
Wicklow keeper Christine Warburton made a great save to deny Erin Farrell a goal while Aine Tighe and Ruth Kearney swapped frees as a dominant Westmeath kicked some costly wides.
They paid the price with Tighe again causing consternation, this time running from deep and exchanging short passes before drilling the ball to the Westmeath net. It almost got better but Warburton made a great save to deny Niamh Tighe a second Leitrim goal.
That left Leitrim 1-6 to 1-5 in front at the break, a lead extended when Niamh Tighe drilled over the bar as a goal briefly looked on.
Karen Hegarty hit back but Westmeath’s remarkable inaccuracy continued with five bad wides while Leitrim were denied a score with three blocks by Westmeath defenders in the one move.
Lorraine Brennan was sin-binned for a heavy challenge on Hegarty, perhaps seeing yellow as a result of continued Leitrim fouls. Elaine Finn levelled as she drove over the bar with a goal on and in a great move from defence, Kearney edged the midlanders in front.
Michelle Guckian saved Finn’s goal shot while Laura O’Dowd was unlucky to see her shot fly across the goal. An Aine Tighe free did level the game but another good move ended with the excellent Kearney scoring her third of the game.
Laura Walsh’s shot hit the crossbar and Foley inexplicably put a free in front of the posts wide before Walsh scored a great point on the run three minutes into over 12 minutes of added time. Sub Emma Morris added a free as Westmeath now led by three.
Leitrim kept fighting but had missed efforts from sub Ann Marie Gallagher and Shauna Clancy before Morris made the victory sure for Westmeath over 10 minutes into added time.