Laura Doherty in action for Westmeath against Laois yesterday. Photo: Denis Byrne

McGrath’s brace not enough as Westmeath bow out

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship: Westmeath 2-11, Laois 1-14

Gerry Buckley reports

A fine point from Laois’ centre half back Clodagh Tynan in the fifth minute of added-time secured the home team the draw which eliminated Westmeath from this year’s All-Ireland intermediate camogie championship at the O’Moore County’s centre of excellence in Portlaoise yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.

Both teams gave their all in what was a gripping contest played in showery conditions on the pitch adjacent to MW Hire O’Moore Park. Indeed, it was a pity that the small but enthusiastic crowd was subjected to the vagaries of the Irish ‘summer’ weather so close to the resplendent home of Laois GAA, never mind the young ladies representing their respective counties being denied the use of the main facility.

Laois were pointless going into the game and needed a win to have any hope of avoiding relegation instead of Carlow. The visitors, whose starting lineout bore scant resemblance to what was listed on the match programme, needed a win themselves to copper-fasten a quarter-final slot ahead of Dublin. Accordingly, neither outfit was happy after the final whistle stalemate.

The blue and white-clad side started the brighter with three unanswered points in as many minutes from the sticks of Andrea Scully (after a mere 25 seconds), Kristen Keenan and Gráinne Delaney.

However, Diarmuid Cahill’s charges responded in the best possible manner by rattling over three points of their own by the seventh minute, courtesy of Karen Gaffney (after great work by Megan Dowdall), Dowdall herself (a free) and Caoimhe McCrossan (a solo score).

A point exchange ensued between Aimee Collier (from a tight angle) and Olivia Glynn. The lively Sheila McGrath was blocked with a goal as her target before Niamh Dollard’s troops took control somewhat, firing over five points without reply between the 15th and 25th minutes. The white flags were raised by Collier (three in-a-row - the first and third from frees, and the second with aplomb from play), Áiva Coss (after skilfully stealing the sliotar) and Gemma Hoare (when she cut in goalward).

The Lake County ladies remained in contention with a point apiece from Emma Broughan and Elaine Finn (whose rasping shot in the last action of the first moiety was deflected over the crossbar by Laois goalie Aedín Lowry). The home team led by 0-9 to 0-6 at the interval.

Laois regained their five-point advantage by 33rd minute with points from Delaney and Collier (a free). However, another Dowdall free (after she had been fouled at the end of a great run) was followed by a well-taken goal from Denise McGrath (despite stumbling) in the 37th minute, following great work by Glynn. When the same player pounced for her second green flag – albeit fortuitous from a tight angle – some seven minutes later, Westmeath looked the more likely winners, leading by two points (2-7 to 0-11).

But Laois replied immediately with a three-pointer from close range by Hoare. Alice Walsh was gifted a point to double their lead, before a rapid-fire brace by McCrossan had the girls in maroon and white on level terms (2-9 to 1-12) with 53 minutes elapsed.

The atmosphere was electric at this juncture as updates on the Dublin v Carlow match were being sought by both sets of supporters. The respective number 14s, Keenan and Denise McGrath, exchanged points.

When the latter was fouled, Dowdall’s successful free seemed to have won the day for Westmeath, but there was still time for Clodagh Tynan (who had been short a couple of minutes earlier from a long-range free) to break Westmeath hearts with a great equalizer deep into injury-time.

Scorers – Westmeath: D McGrath 2-1, M Dowdall (3f) and C McCrossan 0-3 each, K Gaffney, O Glynn, E Broughan and E Finn 0-1 each. Laois: A Collier 0-5 (3f), G Hoare 1-1, G Delaney and K Keenan 0-2 each, A Scully, Á Coss, A Walsh and C Tynan 0-1 each.

Westmeath: Fiona Keating; Chloe Butler, Méadbh Scally, Dearbhail McLoughlin; Laura Doherty, Aisling Egerton, Sarah King; Maria Kelly, Megan Dowdall; Olivia Glynn, Caoimhe McCrossan, Sheila McGrath; Shannon Dalton, Elaine Finn, Karen Gaffney. Rest of panel: Sandra McGrath, Emily McCabe, Muireann Scally, Aoife O’Malley, Louise O’Connor, Emma Broughan, Denise McGrath, Hannah Core, Anna Weir, Róisín Scally, Niamh Horan, Caoimhe Scally, Una Leonard, Darian Corcoran.

Laois: Aedín Lowry; Karla Whelan, Jade Bergin, Katie Dunican; Leah Daly, Clodagh Tynan, Luisne Delaney; Jessie Quinlan, Alice Walsh; Aimee Collier, Grainee Delaney, Áiva Coss; Gemma Hoare, Kristen Keenan, Andrea Scully. Rest of panel: Róisín Dowling. Enya Carroll, Caitlín Hoary, Cara Phelan, Gráinne O’Reilly.

Ref: Ciarán Groome (Offaly).