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'Comfortably one of the best in this country' - from nightmare run of injuries to All-Ireland glory

Westmeath star Sarah Dillon lit up Croke Park with 1-6 from play in yesterday’s intermediate decider.

Sarah Dillon scoring a second-half goal yesterday.
Sarah Dillon scoring a second-half goal yesterday.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WHILE VIKKI WALL, Emma Duggan et al were among the heroes of Meath’s magical All-Ireland senior final win yesterday, Westmeath had plenty of their own in the intermediate decider.

Like their neighbours, the Lake County produced a stunning team performance, and lifted the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup at the second time of asking.

Sean Finnegan’s side were 25-point winners over Wexford, atoning for last year’s decider defeat at the hands of the Royals, the new senior champions who dethroned Dublin.

Clocking an awesome 4-19 in a memorable display, Sarah Dillon and Anna Jones devastatingly combined for 1-6 a-piece, while Leona Archibold and Lucy McCartan also found the back of the net en route to sealing a return to the senior ranks.

Dillon, in particular, gave an exhibition in attack, lighting up Croke Park with each and every one of her scores coming from play.

Her outstanding 27th-minute effort, squeezed over from way out on the right was probably the pick of the day, while she rattled off three unanswered points early in the second half, and a goal soon after, to well and truly send Westmeath on their way.

Still only 20, the Milltown star has navigated a difficult path to this point, but really showed her class yesterday.

“Sarah is comfortably one of the best ladies footballers in this country,” manager Finnegan said afterwards.

“She has had such hard luck in the last few years; two cruciates, two shoulder dislocations, she has never got a run.

“This year we got her fit, thanks be to God. She has transformed the team she is an absolutely magnificent footballer and she is only young. She is only going to get better, she is only coming into her prime now.

“If she stays injury-free, she will be a superstar.”

As the old adage goes, you have to lose one to win one. Yesterday was redemption for Westmeath, and rather fittingly, it came 10 years on from their last title lift at this grade.

It was the same story for junior champions Wicklow, a Leinster clean sweep achieved at HQ.

Gathering his thoughts on the achievement, Finnegan noted: “I’m emotionally drained but on a high. Naturally winning an All-Ireland is the dream and the pinnacle of players, management, everybody. So I’m just on a high.”

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westmeath-players-celebrate-with-the-the-mary-quinn-memorial-cup Westmeath celebrating with the silverware. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While Wexford’s 2021 journey to this has been nothing short of admirable, the heavy defeat on the biggest stage will have been a bitter pill to swallow.

Manager Lizzy Kent, who took the reins earlier this summer after the county found themselves at a low ebb with league relegation, was incredibly gracious in defeat.

“Sometimes you have to tip your hat, you are beaten by a better team,” she said.

“We knew that today we would need to turn up we would need to get a really really good performance. We didn’t quite get that, particularly in the first half anyway, so we knew we were going to have a task on our hands with Westmeath.

“It’s a real learning for us, we didn’t come out of the blocks and Westmeath certainly did.”

- additional reporting from Darragh Small for the Ladies Gaelic Football Association.

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Emma Duffy

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