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Wonderful Westmeath erase 2020 heartbreak with stunning All-Ireland intermediate final win

A superb team performance saw the Lake County run out 25-point winners over Wexford.

Westmeath captain Fiona Claffey lifting the The Mary Quinn Memorial Cup.
Westmeath captain Fiona Claffey lifting the The Mary Quinn Memorial Cup.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Westmeath 4-19

Wexford 0-6

AS THE OLD adages go, you have to lose one to win one — and goals win games.

Both certainly shone through as Westmeath produced a stunning performance to atone for last year’s All-Ireland intermediate final defeat and lift the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup in style after a 25-point win over Wexford.

10 years on from their last title at this level, Westmeath’s class shone through, and they’ll now join 2021 All-Ireland senior finalists Meath — who beat them in last year’s decider — and Dublin in Leinster next season.

Sarah Dillon was irresistible for the Lake county, the Player of the Match registering 1-6 from play while bringing her tally for the year to 5-23. Anna Jones finished with the same 1-6 total, while Leona Archibold (penalty) and Lucy McCartan scored the other goals in a complete team performance.

Captain Fiona Claffey finished her 18th season of inter-county football by climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand and lifting the silverware after another brilliant individual display.

Wexford’s incredible 2021 journey must be commended; Lizzy Kent taking the reins after their low ebb of relegation from Division 2 of the Lidl National League with an upward trajectory enjoyed ever since.

But they were left to rue mistakes on the biggest stage, and Sean Finnegan’s Westmeath just had too much on the day. They well and truly dominated from pillar to post, with clear intentions to atone for last year’s decider loss.

They had three points on the board from three different scorers – Dillon, Jones and Tracey Dillon – and very nearly had a goal or two but for heroics from Wexford ‘keeper Sarah Merrigan and some last-ditch defending, before the Slaneysiders got off the mark.

Sherene Hamilton opened their account with a lovely score from a difficult angle with eight minutes on the clock. Wexford looked like they’d start to find their groove from there, the Catriona Murray-Aisling Murphy axis clicking nicely at times, but they’ll regret some bad wides against a strong wind.

Amy Wilson’s 12th-minute point spelled the start of a costly scoreless period, while Westmeath kicked on either side of the water break. Laying siege on Merrigan’s goal, a major finally arrived in the 15th minute courtesy of a Leona Archibold penalty.

Westmeath capitalised on poor Wexford mistakes and punished them for wides, and just after the restart, Lucy McCartan rattled the back of the net to make it 2-5 to 0-2.

Moving the ball well and always finding the player in the best position, the Lake county powered towards half time, finishing with six different scorers. Dillon’s sublime 27th-minute effort from way out on the left was the pick of the scores.

sarah-dillon-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Westmeath's Sarah Dillon celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Wexford’s only other score of the half came from a Murray free off the ground, something Jones also did at the other end, leaving it 2-11 to 0-3 at the break.

Dillon picked up where she left off afterwards, rattling off three unanswered points, while it was a matter of damage limitation for Wexford. Fresh legs were introduced, and to their credit, they battled hard and never gave up, but their shooting really let them down.

Ciara Banville and another Murray free were their only scores of the third quarter, while more from Jones (free) and Ciara Blundell kept Westmeath ticking at the other end.

And it was all Westmeath down the home straight: A Sarah Dillon goal kickstarting their stylish finish, which certainly wasn’t short of drama. After points from Jones, and substitute duo Aoife Connolly and Karen Hegarty, the former made it 4-19 to 0-6 with a palmed goal.

They very nearly had a fifth only for impressive stand-in Wexford goalkeeper Aisling Murphy (Merrigan was sin-binned for the foul) saving Connolly’s penalty, which lead the county’s biggest cheer of the day.

That was but a consolation after a difficult afternoon. 4-19 to 0-6, it would finish; the outpour of Westmeath emotion at the final whistle summing up how big this win was.

Scorers for Wexford: Catriona Murray 0-2 (2f), Ciara Banville, Sherene Hamilton, Amy Wilson and Emma Tompkins all 0-1.

Scorers for Westmeath: Sarah Dillon and Anna Jones (3f) both 1-6, Lucy McCartan 1-1, Leona Archibold 1-0 (pen), Fiona Claffey 0-2, Tracey Dillon, Ciara Blundell, Aoife Connolly and Karen Hegarty all 0-1.

Wexford

1. Sarah Merrigan (Kilanerin)

2. Loren Doyle (Crossabeg Ballymun), 3. Ailsing Halligan (Clonard Volunteers), 4. Sadhbh McCarthy (Shelmalier)

5. Clara Donelly (Shelmalier), 6. Shauna Murphy (Shelmalier), 7. Sarah Harding (Shelmalier)

8. Kellie Kearney (Shelmalier), 9. Róisín Murphy (Shelmalier)

10. Sherene Hamilton (Ballygarrett Realt Na Mara), Catriona Murray (Clonee), Ciara Banville (Taghmon Camross)

13. Ailis Neville (Shelmalier), 14. Aisling Murphy (Gusserane, captain), 15. Amy Wilson (Castletown Liam Mellows)

Subs

17. Derbhla Doyle (Crossabeg Ballymurn) for Sadhbh McCarthy (34)

22. Jane Rossiter (Bannow Ballymitty) for Amy Wilson (36)

21. Emma Tomkins (Clonee) for Ailis Neville (37)

18. Anne Byrne (Clonee) for Sherene Hamilton (37)

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20. Aoife Cullen (Gusserane) for Catriona Murray (injured)

Westmeath

1. Lauren McCormack (Mullingar Shamrocks)

2. Niamh Spellman (Mullingar Shamrocks), 3. Lorraine Duncan (Garrycastle), 4. Tara Fagan (Mullingar Shamrocks)

5. Fiona Coyle (St Mary’s Rochfortbrigde), 6. Lucy Power (The Downs), 7. Aoife Brady (St Mary’s Rochfortbridge)

8. Vicky Carr (St Loman’s), 9. Tracey Dillon (Milltown)

10. Fiona Claffey (Foxrock Cabinteely, Dublin, captain), 11. Leona Archibold (St Loman’s), 12. Anna Jones (Mullingar Shamrocks)

13. Ciara Blundell (St Loman’s), 14. Lucy McCartan (St Lomans), 15. Sarah Dillon (Milltown).

Subs

20. Karen Hegarty (Mullingar Shamrocks) for Ciara Blundell (47)

27. Aoife Connolly (Garrycastle) for Sarah Dillon (49)

21. Jo-hanna Maher (Tyrrellspass) for Tracey Dillon (49)

24. Emma Kelly (Cill Oige) for Lorraine Duncan (50)

22. Jennifer Rogers (Milltown) for Aoife Brady (52)

Referee: Shane Curley (Galway).

About the author:

Emma Duffy  / rep

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