Westmeath Leave it Late in Derby Game

A 54th minute Leona Archibald penalty proved to be crucial for Westmeath as they took all three points in a tense, tight and exciting encounter with visitors Meath on Sunday afternoon in the fifth round of the Lidl NFL. For the Royals, the penalty came as a devastating blow as they pushed their neighbours all the way, leading by two at half time and will be greatly encouraged going into the break with two rounds of the League remaining.

Meath Captain Kate Byrne with Westmeath Captain Jenny Rodgers and referee Niall McCormack at today's Lidl NFL fixture

The first half opened at lightning speed with Kate Byrne and Shelly Melia notching up two points on the scoreboard before Westmeath responded with a goal courtesy of Ciara Blundell. The corner forward had a terrific outing, contributing 2-05 to Westmeath’s total tally and was a thorn in the Royal defence all afternoon. Blundell followed up her opening goal with a point on four minutes before this was cancelled out by Niamh Gallogly on the resumption, a score that highlighted the Royal threat with Stacey Grimes, Kate Byrne and Ailbhe McHugh all involved in the build up. Grimes levelled matters for the Royals on seven minutes while Meath went a player up after 8 mins when Roisin Brennan was sin binned for an off the ball incident. Centre forward Archibald opened her scoring for the afternoon on 9 mins with a point and added a free on 12 minutes. It was to get worse for the Royals as Niall McCormack pointed to the penalty spot on 14 mins after a foul in the square. Archibald made no mistake with the finish, burying it past Meath netminder Louise Dunne. Aoife Connolly stretched the home side’s lead to six points half way through the first half before McHugh pointed to reduce the gap to five. A minute later, a brave run by Síofra Cleary and her high and long range effort went over Walshe’s head and into the back of the net to leave just a brace between the sides. Meath should have gotten goal number two as Vikki Wall went close on 19 mins but it was Westmeath who responded quicker, hitting three unanswered points – a brace from Blundell and one from Connolly. Hannah Heskin came to Meath’s rescue as she saved off the line and when Stacey Grimes’ neat effort rebounded off the crossbar at the other end, Shelly Melia was first to the breaking ball before being taken down in the box. A penalty was the end result, quickly dispatched to the net by Stacey Grimes. Gallogly added her second point of the half on 26 mins to reduce the gap to a single point and on the resumption Grimes won the kickout and chipped the ball past Walshe in goals. This sent the Royals into a two point lead, which they took into the half time break despite the teams trading scores once more, both scores frees – Vikki Wall on target for the Royals. At half time, it was the Royals who went in the happier.

 

Half Time; Meath 3-07, Westmeath 2-08

 

The second half was a much tighter affair with Westmeath stating their intentions early through a goal from Blundell on 31 mins which just crept under the bar. Westmeath continued their early dominance in the second half, despite brave defending from Paula Dunne, Aideen Guy and Orla Byrne, with a further three unanswered scores, one from Blundell and two frees from the boot of Archibald. Two points in the 41st minute from Niamh Gallogly reduced the gap to two points much to the joy of the Meath dugout. The teams traded frees in the 43rd and 45th minutes with Wall and Archibald on target for their respective teams. Archibald pointed her sixth point of the contest on 49 mins and despite some determined Royal pressure, Westmeath stood firm. With the game on a knife edge and neither side willing to give in, Westmeath were awarded a penalty in the 54th minute after an alleged foot block was made. Archibald made no mistake with the finish for Westmeath’s fourth goal. Karen Hegerty pointed on 56 mins and this was to be Westmeath’s final score of the contest. Despite this Meath did not give in and had the final say with two fine points – one from Vikki Wall and one from Julie Donnellan deep into injury time to leave the Royals five points adrift when the full time whistle came.

 

Full Time; Meath 3-12, Westmeath 4-14.

 

Despite the loss, this was a colossal performance from the Royals. After a good performance against Donegal last weekend, today’s performance was an encouraging sign of green shoots in the Royal County as Spring takes hold. While today’s result was bitterly disappointing, felt most deeply by the players themselves, the team can be incredibly proud of their determined and skilled efforts and can look with confidence to their final two round games in a couple of weeks; Clare visiting the Royal County on the 3rd April and a short journey to Kildare on the 10th April to take on the Lillies.

 

The League now takes a break with the HEC O’Connor Cup Finals next weekend and the Club Leagues beginning. Meath have thirteen footballers travelling to IT Tralee to take part in the Finals. Simonstown’s Niamh Lister (DCU) and Aisling Cassidy (UCD) may be on opposing sidelines if their respective semi-finals go according to plan while there are eight Meath players involved in St. Pat’s Drumcondra in the Giles Cup who take on Juliet Murphy and Cork IT in their semi final. Victory in this semi final would see them play either IT Carlow or Mary Immaculate College Limerick in the final. Meath also have three representatives on the DIT team who are in the Lynch Cup semi final against Jordanstown. Meath are also fortunate to be represented by two referees next weekend as Colm McManus and Angela Gallagher have been appointed to officiate. Meath Ladies would like to wish all thirteen players and Colm and Angela the very best of luck next weekend!

 

Next Saturday sees the return of the under 14 and under 16 Leinster Championships with a double header against Kildare fixed for 12.30 and 2pm respectively. Despite a plucky performance the Meath u14s were narrowly defeated by Dublin in the opening round and will be looking to make amends when they face neighbours Kildare in the first of the two games next Saturday. Meath u16s will then take centre stage after their terrific win over Dublin last weekend, to take on the Kildare u16s and Peter Byrne’s charges will be hoping to get two wins from two. They will know they are up against it however as Kildare were also convincing victors in their opening round fixture against Laois. All support much appreciated for our young Royals!

 

Meath Team & Scorers: Louise Dunne, Aideen Guy, Hannah Heskin, Orla Byrne, Shelley Melia (0-01), Paula Dunne, Síofra Cleary (1-00), Niamh Gallogly (0-02), Niamh O’Sullivan, Stacey Grimes (2-01, 1pen), Vikki Wall (0-03, 2f), Bláthnaid Keogh, Ailbhe McHugh (0-01), Kate Byrne (0-01), Julie Donnellan (0-01).

Subs: Caitriona Keogan for Melia (41 mins), Aisling Sheridan, Hannah McKeown, Jenny Rispin, Leah Kelly, Ciara Donoghue, Kate Lawless, Elaine Plunkett, Marian Farrelly, Niamh Lister.

 

Meath; Karen Walshe, Fiona Coyle, Laura Brennan, Triona Durkin, Jennie Rodgers (C), Fiona Claffey, Roisin Brennan, Maud Ann Foley, Johanna Maher, Karen McDermott, Leona Archibald (2-06, 2pen, 4f, Chloe Kelly, Aoife Connolly (0-02), Karen Hegarty (0-01), Ciara Blundell (2-05).

 

Referee: Niall McCormack (Laois)

 

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