Leanne Slevin, Westmeath, gets to the ball ahead of Aine Brady, Cavan, in Sunday’s ladies NFL Div 2 game at TEG Cusack Park.

Wasteful Westmeath lose out to beatable Cavan side

Westmeath’s senior ladies’ football side will have had a sleepless night wondering how they slumped to defeat against a beatable Cavan outfit at TEG Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon.

The visitors spent the vast majority of this Division 2 game under the cosh and had a late goal from sub Rebecca McLoughlin to thank for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Despite enjoying long spells of possession, Westmeath struggled to kill off the game and this lack of ruthlessness ultimately proved their downfall. The hosts finished with 11 wides, kicked a number of shorts and had a couple of decent goal chances go a-begging.

Cavan, on the other hand, posted just three wides and outside of their final tally of 1-4, you could probably have counted the number of chances they had on one hand. Though providing limited resistance, they were far more economical with the opportunities presented to them and for that reason alone, they were deserving winners.

In fairness to Westmeath, they got everything right bar the final product. They were superbly organised in defence, turning Cavan over 23 times and conceding only 1-1 from play. However, the scoreboard is where it counts and it was a shame that the Lake County’s defensive nous, and their undoubted ability to create chances, wasn’t matched by some composure in the final third.

The game should have been over as a contest at half-time, but at the short whistle, the hosts led by only 0-3 to 0-1 after missing a stack of chances.

It was Cavan who first troubled the scoreboard, with Sinéad Levingstone dividing the posts with her left boot after Anna Jones, at the other end, had an early shot blocked by Breffni skipper Áine Brady.

Jones was the Lake County’s liveliest forward but it was Sarah Dillon who opened the scoring for Frank Browne’s charges on six minutes after a neat turn.

The Maroons, dominating possession from the outset, were expected to kick on from there but they were plagued by inaccuracy and poor shot selection in the ensuing quarter-hour. Jones, Dillon, Vicky Carr and Leanne Slevin all drew blanks, while Jones had a low shot deflected wide after eight minutes.

Twenty minutes elapsed before Westmeath finally took the lead, with Sarah Dillon again obliging with an accurate kick from the right corner.

Leanne Slevin made it 0-3 to 0-1 on 30 minutes with a free, but at this stage the Maroons had missed a very scoreable 1-5. Their attacking woes mounted when Anna Jones limped off in stoppage time with a hamstring injury.

Cavan, who had little if any input in the first half, almost snuck a goal before the interval when Niamh McCorry got her outstretched paws to a high ball, but Westmeath ‘keeper Lauren McCormack was equal to it.

The Lake County emerged with a pep in their step after the restart, and inside the first minute Sarah Dillon linked up well with the inrushing Ashley Ruane, who drove the ball over the bar to make it 0-4 to 0-1.

However, the hosts failed to build on this, and on 36 minutes Vicky Carr posted their eighth wide. At the other end, a theretofore watertight Westmeath defence had some nervy moments, and within four minutes there was just a point between the sides, with McCorry and Aoife Brady converting frees for the Breffni women.

A host of Westmeath chances followed, but yielded nothing. A neat passing move between Fiona Coyle, Kelly Boyce Jordan and Vicky Carr tore Cavan asunder on 41 minutes, but Carr missed the target. Four minutes later, Sarah Dillon teed up Milltown clubmate Leanne Slevin with a beautifully-sliced pass, but another wide followed.

On 46 minutes, the home supporters were on their feet when Ashley Ruane got in behind the Cavan defence and rifled a low shot at goal, but Breffni netminder Joanne Reilly made a superb save.

As Westmeath’s frustration mounted, Cavan needed a break to tip the scales, and it arrived not long after McCorry equalised from a free in the 49th minute. The Maroons had hardly put a foot wrong defensively but were caught out three minutes later, when Christina Charters picked out sub Rebecca McLoughlin with a ball over the top, and the Shannon Gaels forward drove a low, left-footed shot to the net. Cavan led 1-4 to 0-4.

Westmeath poured forward in response to this setback but continued to struggle in the accuracy stakes, with Sarah Dillon notching her side’s 11th wide before Leanne Slevin dropped a routine free short of the target.

The pair made amends in subsequent minutes, with Dillon (a free) and Slevin (from play) cutting Cavan’s lead to a point. The Maroons frantically went in search of an equaliser, or even a winner, and with time up a well-worked move involving Fiona Coyle and Chloe Kelly led to Vicky Carr kicking for the posts. The shot fell short to spark a furious scramble for the loose ball, but Cavan cleared their lines and held on for the win.

Westmeath host Tipperary next weekend in their second consecutive home game, where they will look to regroup and put some daylight between them and the spectre of relegation.

Scorers - Cavan: R McLoughlin 1-0, N McCorry 0-2f, S Levingstone and Aoife Brady (free) 0-1 each. Westmeath: S Dillon 0-3 (1f), L Slevin 0-2 (1f), A Ruane 0-1.

Westmeath: Lauren McCormack; Laura Kiernan, Lucy Power, Lara McCartan; Chloe Kelly, Fiona Coyle, Rachel Dillon; Kelly Boyce Jordan, Vicky Carr; Ashley Ruane, Anna Jones, Caoimhe Clarke McMahon; Sarah Dillon, Leanne Slevin, Tracey Dillon. Subs used: Karen Hegarty for Clarke McMahon (27), Caoimhe Kilmurray for Jones (inj., 30+3), Rebecca Higgins for Ruane (58).

Cavan: Joanne Reilly; Niamh Smith, Áine Brady (Cornafean), Áine Brady (Ballyhaise); Lucy Crowe, Róisín Dolan, Ruth Gilsenan; Áine Smith, Sarah McCabe; Zara Fay, Amy Wharton, Aoife Brady; Christina Charters, Niamh McCorry, Sinéad Levingstone. Subs used: Niamh Briody for Gilsenan (30), Tara Leddy for Á Smith (42), Rebecca McLoughlin for Wharton (45), Aoibheann Morrison for N Smith (47), Molly Smith for McCorry (60), Deirbhile McCaffrey for McCabe (60+1), Erin Longair for Levingstone (60+1).

Ref: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo).