Marie Kelly of Westmeath gets away from Derry’s Aine McGill in the Division 2A league final at Croke Park. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Goal hungry Westmeath deny never-say-die Derry

Westmeath 4-8, Derry 0-16

A goal from the outstanding Megan Dowdall three minutes from the end of normal time finally confirmed Westmeath’s Very Camogie League Division 2A final triumph after Derry had threatened a remarkable comeback.

The Lakesiders had led by nine points in the first half after a flurry of goals, but Derry had it back to two in the final quarter before Dowdall’s second major settled the tie.

The sharpshooter had taken Derry for 4-4 in the group stages and was dangerous again, finishing with 2-3 on this occasion. She had plenty of support up front in the shape of the experienced Sheila McGrath and lively Hannah Core.

Áine Barton (née McAllister) has long been Derry’s go-to operator in attack and she stood up to the plate once more to drag her side back into it after it had looked like they might be overrun in that opening period.

Barton finished with ten points but it wasn’t enough to reel the Maroons in.

Amelia Shaw dropped into the middle third, leaving the experienced Aoife Ní Chaiside as a plus one in defence, but Westmeath were still able to work enough space to get their strike force into threatening positions.

Dowdall showed good acceleration to get on the ball from one of the first passages of play and turned smartly to open the scoring but good work by Aoife Shaw set up Dervla O’Kane for a fourth minute equaliser.

Shaw then won another dirty ball and sent Barton on her way to give Derry the lead.

It didn’t last long though as Core pounced when Derry should have cleared to handpass to McGrath, who blasted to the net from close range in the seventh minute.

Barton and Core exchanged points before Dowdall made her mark, grabbing her initial goal and then arcing over a lovely point to put six between them.

Niamh Gribbon made a smart save from Core but a defensive error enabled Dowdall to send McGrath clear for her second goal and it was 3-3 to 0-3, with Derry at sixes and sevens.

Ironically, it seemed as if a lengthy stoppage for treatment to their wing-back Lauren McKenna, who had to leave the fray, enabled PJ O’Mullan’s charges to reset and a point from Bríd Rodgers – wife of Derry football star Brendan – along with three from Barton reduced the margin to five at half-time.

The second half was far more competitive in the middle third. Amelia Shaw slotted a couple of points, including Westmeath’s first from a scoreable free, but O’Kane and Aoife Shaw replied at the other end.

As the half wore on, Derry began to exert a great foothold and Pádraic Connaughton must have been frustrated that they could not get their danger women on the ball.

Barton hit some immense scores and Rodgers was also on the mark once more as the gap became just two. Dowdall struck a phenomenal point from tight to the Cusack Stand sideline and then came the clincher.

Dowdall got a touch on a delivery from midfield that knocked the sliotar in behind the cover and was already on the half-turn, enabling her to be the quickest onto it.

Surprisingly, she took her shot too early from just outside the 20m line even though there was no one between herself and Gribbon. The Derry netminder made the stop but the rebound fell to Dowdall once more and the Clonkill player made no mistake second time around.

SCORERS FOR WESTMEATH: M Dowdall 2-3; S McGrath 2-0; Amelia Shaw 0-4 (3fs); H Core 0-1.

SCORERS FOR DERRY: Á Barton 0-9 (4fs, 1'65'); B Rogers 0-3; D O’Kane 0-2; Aoife Shaw 0-2 (1f).

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: Meadbh Scally for McCrossan (48), Niamh Horan for H Dowdall (59), Aisling Egerton for McCabe (60+2), Emma Broughan for McGrath (60+3).

Derry: Niamh Gribbon; Ceat McEldowney, Leah Lennon, Aoife Ní Chaiside; Rachel Downey, Niamh Quinn, Lauren McKenna; Áine McGill, Rachel Donnelly; Áine Barton, Dervla O’Kane, Bríd Rodgers; Olivia Rafferty, Jackie Donnelly, Aoife Shaw. Subs used: Megan Kerr for R Donnelly (15), Cliodhna Ní Mhianain for McKenna (inj., 26), Anna Cassidy for J Donnelly (37), Orlaith Hull for Rafferty (45), Eimhear McGuigan for McGill (52).

REFEREE: Cathal McAllister (Cork).