Westmeath captain Lauren McCormack in action against Cavan.

Dillon’s second-half goal secures quarter-final spot

Westmeath 2-12 Cavan 2-6

It was a case of “do or die”, and they did it. Westmeath’s intermediate ladies side are through to an All-Ireland quarter-final after an impressive display against a disappointing Cavan side in TEG Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon last.

When the sides met in the league at the same venue in February, Westmeath left their shooting boots at home and were defeated by a very beatable Cavan outfit in a low-scoring affair. Roles were reversed on this occasion, and although Cavan’s overall performance improved over February’s display, some poor shot selection and wayward shooting meant that for most of this game, the hosts were hardly troubled.

When Cavan did hit the target, luck evaded them, with the Breffni girls hitting the woodwork on four occasions. Had they taken even half of their missed chances, the visitors could easily have left Mullingar with the spoils.

Although this will be at the back of Westmeath manager Frank Browne’s mind, he will be very happy with his side’s assured performance. The Maroons played some very attractive attacking football, despite the setback of losing marquee forward Sarah Dillon to injury in the warm-up. While Cavan struggled, Westmeath excelled at doing the simple things well and reaped deserved rewards.

The Lake County led 1-6 to 0-2 as half-time approached, with Cavan carved open at the back for a Vicky Carr goal on the quarter-hour mark. Despite Westmeath’s dominance, Cavan’s Ally Cahill netted before the break and the first hint of uncertainty crept in.

However, two minutes into the second half, a well-worked second Westmeath goal from Rachel Dillon cancelled this out and as Cavan continued to miss the target, Westmeath were well on top with minutes to go (2-11 to 1-6), by which time Cavan’s second goal arrived too late.

With both sides having lost to Down, a win was crucial here for both sides, and Cavan began with greater urgency. Deirbhile McCaffrey threatened the Westmeath goal early on necessitating a terrific block from Vicky Carr.

It was Westmeath who took the early lead after Caoimhe Kilmurray picked out Méadbh Monaghan, and the Killucan forward obliged. However, at the other end, Cavan equalised with a point from Sinéad Levingstone, and moments later, a searching ball from McCaffrey fell to Ally Cahill who, despite being surrounded by Westmeath defenders, poked a low shot at goal and struck the upright. The Maroons survived and cleared their lines.

The hosts picked off two wides before settling into the game, with Caoimhe Kilmurray curling their second point on seven minutes, before centre half Fiona Coyle soloed through the Cavan defence for a fine individual score.

Back came the Breffni girls, and again it was Ally Cahill who looked most likely to nab the game’s opening goal. This time, her dipping attempt at a point almost lobbed Westmeath netminder Lauren McCormack and rebounded off the crossbar. Again, Westmeath reacted quickly and cleared.

With 12 minutes gone, Westmeath went on the hunt for a green flag. A neat move involving Kilmurray, Ashley Ruane and Leanne Slevin led to the latter being brought down, and referee Ciaran Groome awarded the hosts a penalty. Slevin struck it low and hard but Cavan goalkeeper Evelyn Baugh was equal to it.

Two minutes later however, the Maroons found the net. Ruane, a constant threat for Cavan at this stage, was involved again, drawing off multiple defenders with a solo run before splitting the Cavan defence with a pass to Vicky Carr. Unmarked, Carr sauntered through the breach and netted from close range.

The Maroons deservedly led 1-3 to 0-1, and as Cavan missed further chances through Levingstone and McCaffrey, they added three more scores to their tally courtesy of Slevin (two, one from play) and Rachel Dillon (a fisted effort after some neat Westmeath play).

In between, Cavan had the ball in the net after Niamh McCorry bundled home the rebound when Westmeath ’keeper Lauren McCormack spilled a free from Sinéad Levingstone. However, the goal was disallowed for a square ball infringement.

Westmeath, eight points ahead with just four minutes of the half to go, were superior but the fragile nature of their lead became clear when Cavan shot 1-1 just before the break. Levingstone divided the posts with a free and on 29 minutes, Ally Cahill found the net on the third attempt when, although clearly going for a point, she lobbed McCormack to make it 1-6 to 1-2 at the break.

Despite this setback, Westmeath didn’t panic and emerged in confident fashion on the resumption. On 32 minutes, a lovely passing move led to a one-two between Méadbh Monaghan and Rachel Dillon, and the latter got in behind the Cavan defence to bury the ball to the net.

After a couple of wides and shorts, Cavan regained their composure with a free from Sinéad Levingstone, but by the three-quarter mark the hosts led by nine (2-9 to 1-3) after excellent scores from Karen Hegarty, Anna Jones and Vicky Carr.

At that point, Cavan introduced Áine Smith and Rebecca McLoughlin, and the two combined instantly for the latter to rifle a shot off the crossbar. Despite chalking up yet another missed opportunity, the substitutions made for an improved Cavan side, and moments later, Smith teed up Zara Fay for a point from play.

At the other end, Westmeath kept the scoreboard ticking over with a free from Leanne Slevin, but Cavan poured forward in search of a potential game changer. It almost arrived on 50 minutes when Deirbhle McCaffrey had a goalbound shot saved by Lauren McCormack, and seconds later, the Ulster outfit got a second bite at the cherry through Sinéad Levingstone, but again the crossbar came to Westmeath’s rescue.

This was one demoralising miss too many for the visitors, and by the 58th minute, Westmeath led by eight (2-11 to 1-6) when, in between scores from Cavan’s Rebecca McLoughlin (a free) and Zara Fay, the experienced Karen Hegarty did well to point despite losing her footing.

The outcome was a fait accompli at this stage, and when Ally Cahill struck for Cavan’s second goal a minute later - a low shot off the ground - the hosts had little cause for panic.

Indeed, Westmeath had the final say through a magnificent score from Milltown’s Tracey Dillon. Worryingly for the Lake County, Dillon left the field clutching her knee in stoppage time, and manager Frank Browne and his team will hope that both Dillons will be back in action for the quarter-final against Wexford on June 30.


Westmeath: V Carr and R Dillon 1-1 each, L Slevin 0-3 (2f), K Hegarty 0-2, M Monaghan, C Kilmurray, F Coyle, A Jones and T Dillon 0-1 each. Cavan: A Cahill 2-0, S Levingstone 0-3 (2f), Z Fay 0-2, R McLoughlin 0-1f.

Westmeath: Lauren McCormack (capt); Lara McCartan, Kelly Boyce Jordan, Lucy Power; Chloe Kelly, Fiona Coyle, Rachel Dillon; Caoimhe Kilmurray, Tracey Dillon; Ashley Ruane, Leanne Slevin, Anna Jones; Vicky Carr, Méadbh Monaghan, Karen Hegarty. Subs used: Lucy McCartan for Monaghan (40), Rebecca Higgins for Ruane (44), Philippa Ruane for T Dillon (inj., 60+3).

Cavan: Evelyn Baugh; Niamh Briody, Áine Brady (capt), Niamh Smith; Kaioni Tuipulotu, Róisín Dolan, Christina Charters; Ruth Gilsenan, Ciara Brady; Zara Fay, Ally Cahill, Amy Wharton; Sinéad Levingstone, Niamh McCorry, Deirbhile McCaffrey. Subs used: Sarah McCabe for McCorry (37), Áine Smith for Gilsenan (45), Rebecca McLoughlin for Wharton (45), Erin Longair for Levingstone (51), Aoife Brady for McCaffrey (53).

Ref: Ciaran Groome (Offaly).