Cliodhan Ni Mhianain, Derry, attempts to ‘hook’ Meadhbh Scally, Westmeath, in Saturday’s National Camogie League at TEG Cusack Park.

Dowdall inspires Westmeath to victory and place in final

Westmeath 5-9, Derry 1-9

Westmeath ended the group stage of the Very National Camogie League Division 2A unbeaten following a rampant victory over table-toppers Derry in TEG Cusack Park last Saturday. Victory was essential for the home side to ensure a spot in the decider in a fortnight and with Megan Dowdall in her usual devastating form, Padraic Connaugthon’s troops were able to give game time to seven substitutes while also continuing to keep the tempo right to the final whistle. Derry came to Mullingar knowing they had already made the final so opted to start without most of their regulars. Fiadh Bray (Brownstown) and Izzy Cassidy (Clonkill) were Westmeath mascots on the day.

The first shots came from the visitors but Fiona Keating was alert to shot from Orlaith Hull. The first Westmeath attack of note yielded the first goal for Dowdall as she struck low past Laura Coyle in the Derry goal. Anna Cassidy replied with a point which was then cancelled out by Sheila McGrath’s fine effort. The game went into a period of fighting for possession at both ends as the likes of Julie McLoughlin and Muireann Scally cut out everything that was thrown their way. Corner-back, Jade McKeogh, did well to make ground out of the backline before teeing up Megan for another point. The Clonkill star entered as the third-highest scorer in the division but was soon changing that stat as she combined with sister, Holly, to add her second goal. With just over twenty minutes gone, Meadbh McLoughlin and Dowdall again made it 2-4 to 0-1.

The final minutes of the half saw yet more green flags raised for the Lake County. Dowdall would complete her hattrick, even while under extreme pressure. Although a brief reply from Derry came through a Cassidy free and Sinéad Mallon’s point, Sheila McGrath made sure the scoreline did not swing around as she buried to the net from Hannah Core’s pass, despite yet more aggressive tackling. Patrick Murphy’s half-time whistle signalled the end of the onslaught as Westmeath led 4-5 to 0-4 before Cullion and Lough Lene Gaels U10 sides played.

Derry opted to bring in some of their more familiar faces for the second-period but Westmeath kept the tempo going on their end as Amelia Shaw and Megan Dowdall added points to cancel the responses from the red jerseys. It was a slightly improved half of camogie from Derry with the introduction of Aoife Shaw and Áine McGill and the former did find the net heading into the final ten minutes, despite Julie McLoughlin putting in a huge block in the preceding attack. Any inkling of a change in fortune for Derry was firmly quashed as Amelia Shaw (1 free and 1 point) and Dowdall’s 4th settled matters.

Victory was essential for Connaughton’s side and they were firmly in control from the off.

Despite a few minor patches of Derry influence, Westmeath were far superior from front to back and can also note seven positive impact appearances off the bench, particularly Meadbh Scally and Niamh Horan.

Scorers - Westmeath: M Dowdall 4-4, S McGrath 1-1, A Shaw 0-3 (2 frees), M McLoughlin 0-1.

Derry: A Shaw 1-3 (3 frees), A Cassidy 0-3 (2 frees), O Hull, S Mallon, A McGill 0-1 each

Teams - Westmeath: Fiona Keating; Emily McCabe, Julie McLoughlin, Jade McKeogh; Maria Kelly, Muireann Scally, Áine Newman; Aoife O’Malley, Hannah Core; Holly Dowdall, Caoimhe McCrossan, Sheila McGrath; Megan Dowdall, Amelia Shaw, Meadbh McLoughlin. Subs used: Niamh Horan for McCabe (34), Meadbh Scally for Holly Dowdall (41), Ava Balfe for McGrath (51), Olivia Glynn for McCrossan (54), Emma Broughan for McLoughlin (54), Ellen Shaw for Core (54), Sarah Downes for McKeogh (57)

Derry: Laura Coyle; Eimear McCloskey, Sinéad McGill, Rachel Donnelly; Emer Doherty, Aoife Ní Chasaide, Cliodhan Ní Mhianáin; Ceat Mc Eldowney, Rachel McAllister; Aimee Lennon, Anna Cassidy, Eimhear McGuigan; Sinéad Mallon, Blathnaid McLaughlin, Orlaith Hull. Subs used: Áine McGill for McEldowney (half-time), Mairéad Comer for Coyle (half-time), Aoife Shaw for McLaughlin (42), Bríd Rodgers for Lennon (42), Olivia Rafferty for Mallon (49).

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)