By Kieran Murphy
MEGAN Dowdall was the Westmeath ace as the Midlanders got their All-Ireland minor camogie B championship off to a great start at the IT Carlow grounds on Saturday. It was a scintillating game from start to finish and if the visitors had the key player of the match then Carlow could look to their full-back Rachel Breen who was superb throughout.
As Westmeath threatened to overrun their rivals in the first half, some of Breen’s blocking, interceptions and clearances breathed new life into the home challenge when it was badly needed.
The eventual winners threatened to sweep Carlow away in the opening minutes as two points from Dowdall and one from Aoibhinn Jackson nudged them three clear. In reply Eibhe Lawler, Katie Garry Murphy and Aoife Carroll all raised white flags.
Twice in the first half, home goalkeeper Aobha Brennan brought off point-blank saves to prevent Jackson finding the net. Lawler then broke through but was desperately unlucky to see her shot hit the bottom left-hand upright.
While Dowdall picked off her scores, Carlow kept themselves in the contest with a three-pointer from Lawler when she ran through the defence and goaled from the left-hand side of the big square.
Just before half-time, a loose Carlow clearance was punished when Dowdall picked up and her score put Westmeath 0-10 to 1-3 ahead at the interval.
Visiting hearts were lifted in the opening minutes of the second half as Shannon Buckley scored an opportunist’s goal from close range after Meadbh McLoughlin’s hopeful long-distance effort gave the Carlow keeper all kinds of problems.
Catherine Kavanagh knocked over a free for the Barrowsiders who refused to falter. They were rewarded when a shot from Kavanagh’s came back off the post but unlike a similar incident in the first half, this time Katie Garry Murphy was on hand to finish.
If Carlow had been asked questions earlier in the game, now Westmeath resolve was tested. They dug in. Carlow could never get the deficit down to three-points. Perhaps that would have mentally worked in their favour but Westmeath were that little bit stronger. Two Dowdall placed balls in reply to a point from play from substitute Caoimhe O’Neill acted as insurance for the visitors.
With 11 minutes to go, the game’s leading scorer picked up a loose ball, made ground and scored the game’s clinching goal.
Carlow came in waves at the end but it was a matter of job done for an impressive Westmeath side.
Westmeath: Emma Flood; Niamh Brady, Karen Keegan, Ellen Higgins; Aisling Doyle, Caoimhe Scally, Sinead Murtagh (0-1); Amelia Shaw, Chloe Galligan; Meadbh McLoughlin (0-1), Megan Dowdall (1-10, 0-2 65s, 0-2 frees), Aoibhinn Jackson (0-1); Erin Core, Lauren Sheridan, Shannon Buckley (1-1). Subs: Ellie O’Brien for Galligan (46 mins), Rhona Cuff for Scally (54 mins).
Carlow: Aobha Brennan; Pollyanna Cullen, Rachel Breen, Chantelle Kelly (all Mount Leinster Rangers); Keeva Collins (Naomh Bríd), Gillian Doyle (Myshall), Chloe O’Dwyer (MLR); Aine Behan (0-1, Myshall), Emma Byrne (0-1); Georgie Byrne, Chloe Beck (all Muinebheag), Eibhe Lawler (1-1, Naomh Bríd); Katie Garry Murphy (1-1, Naomh Bríd), Catherine Kavanagh (0-3, 0-2 frees, MLR), Aoife Carroll (0-1, Kildavin-Clonegal). Subs: Caoimhe O’Neill (0-1, Naomh Bríd) for Byrne (37 mins), Mary Sullivan (Myshall) for Murphy (50 mins), Aoife Power (MLR) for Beck (56 mins), Tara Kelly (Myshall) for Kelly (56 mins).
Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan).
Meanwhile, the Carlow senoir camogie team travelled to Down on Sunday in difficult circumstances after the tragedy which occured at Nine Stones in the early hours of Sunday morning. The team lost out by 4-12 to 1-7. Their next game is at home to Meath on Sunday 10 March.