Emma Duffy reports from Parnell Park
OLD FOES CAVAN and Westmeath will have to do it all again as the thrilling Lidl Ladies National League Division 2 final ended in a draw.
The sides are no strangers to each other, clashing on numerous occasions through the years, but most memorably, they met twice in the 2011 All-Ireland intermediate decider and replay. Westmeath edged the second outing by a single point.
It was almost a game of two halves — Cavan dominating in the first and Westmeath producing a dramatic comeback in the second to leave all to play for yet again next time around.
Westmeath’s Ciara Blundell hit the net twice and substitute Johanna Maher fired two impressive scores to fuel the comeback, as Cavan’s Aisling Doonan put on a masterclass of shooting for the crowd at Parnell Park.
Cavan took control for a spell early in the first half and showed true firepower on the attack, as Donna English and captain Sinead Greene opened the middle with gut-wrenching runs through.
Breffni star Aisling Doonan hit two important scores in the opening 10 minutes, as Westmeath replied through Rochfortbridge’s Karen McDermott.
Claragh O’Reilly, Mona Sheridan and Greene widened the gap as Cavan took control before referee Seamus Mulvihill was faced with an opinion-splitting decision.
Greene’s lightening pace had her almost through on goal, but she was pulled down by Westmeath full-back Amie Giles. There were calls for a sin-bin, but she was dismissed with a warning.
Westmeath needed a score to keep in touch, and corner forward Ciara Blundell obliged as she rattled the net on 15 minutes following an impressive team move to slightly halt Cavan’s momentum.
Aidan McCabe’s side responded with true fight and determination at the other end however, Doonan expertly liking up with her cousin, Rachael, from corner back and Caitriona Smith, as the latter split the posts.
There was an exchange between the two rivals as the minutes ran down for the half-time whistle. Fiona Claffey scored the Lake County’s just second point of the half, while Mullahoran’s Aishling Sheridan edged Cavan three points ahead at the break.
On the restart, Cavan showed no intent in caving in to last year’s Division 2 finalists, as O’Reilly slotted over from play and Doonan registered another free-kick.
Westmeath’s never-say-die attitude shone through as they clawed their way back into the game. Their midfielders — McDermott and Maud Annie Foley — combined to post two important points which added to Leona Archibald’s preceding free.
With three points between the sides, it then turned into a free-taking battle between Doonan and Archibald for a brief period, both accommodating on each ask.
Substitute Johanna Maher made herself known from the get-go, and within seven minutes of her introduction, she had inspired through two consecutive points from play.
Just as Westmeath were starting to get on top, Laura Fitzpatrick and Sheila Reilly lead from the back, making vital interceptions in defence while Smith, English and Doonan kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end.
The Midlanders were then reduced to 14 for ten minutes as full-back Giles was handed a yellow card and sent to the line.
Blundell again was the their hero as she caused havoc for the Cavan defence and wormed her way in on goal to reduce the deficit to just one point out of nowhere.
Foley levelled matters with three minutes on the clock, with a stunning effort off her left as Stephen Maxwell’s charges’ comeback roared on. The intensity was through the roof as time ran down, the crowd erupting with every tackle and potential threat.
The Westmeath midfielder’s was to be the last score of the day however, as the clash became the second National League final to end level, following last week’s Division 3 draw between Tipperary and Wexford.
The replay will take place the weekend beginning the 13 May, to be confirmed.
Scorers for Cavan: Aisling Doonan (0-7, 5f), Claragh O’Reilly (0-2, 1f), Mona Sheridan (0-1), Sinead Greene (0-1), Caitriona Smith (0-2), Aishling Sheridan (0-1), Donna English (0-1)
Scorers for Westmeath: Ciara Blundell (2-0), Karen McDermott (0-2), Fiona Claffey (0-1), Leona Archibald (0-2, 2f), Maud Annie Foley (0-2), Johanna Maher (0-2)
1. Elaine Walsh (Killygarry)
2. Rachael Doonan (Templeport)
3. Ailish Cornyn (St. Francis)
4. Mona Sheridan (Mullahoran)
5. Sinéad Greene (Templeport)
6. Laura Fitzpatrick (St. Finbarrs)
7. Sheila Reilly (Mullahoran)
8. Sinead O’Sullivan (Lacken)
9. Donna English (Arva)
10. Caitriona Smith (Killygarry)
11. Amy Rooney (Kingscourt Stars)
12. Neasa Byrd (Crosserlough)
13. Aishling Sheridan (Mullahoran)
14. Claragh O’Reily (Lurgan)
15. Aisling Doonan (Templeport)
26. Geraldine Smith for Rooney (43′)
19. Shauna Lynch for R Doonan (45′)
20. Racheal Jordan for Byrd (49′)
1. Karen Walsh (Milltown)
2. Rachel Dillon (Milltown)
3. Amie Giles (Coralstown/Kinnegad)
4. Aileen Martin (St. Loman’s Mullingar)
5. Fiona Coyle (St. Mary’s Rochfortbridge)
6. Rebecca Dunne (St. Loman’s Mullingar)
7. Laura Brennan (Garrycastle)
8. Karen McDermott (Rochfortbridge)
9. Maud Annie Foley (Coralstown/Kinnegad)
10. Fiona Claffey (Foxrock Cabinteely)
11. Leona Archibold (St. Loman’s Mullingar)
12. Kelly Boyce Jordan (Milltown)
13. Lucy McCartan (St. Loman’s Mullingar)
14. Laura Lee Walsh (Na Fianna)
15. Ciara Blundell (St. Loman’s Mullingar)
20. Johanna Maher for Boyce Jordan (36′)
23. Leanne Slevin (Milltown) for Brennan (42′)
22. Chloe Kelly (Clan Gaels) for Maher (60′)
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry)
- A previous version of this article displayed an incorrect scoreline. It has since been updated to the correct score — 0-15 to 2-9.
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