Hurling & Camogie

Goals key as Derry are second best to Westmeath

After conceding three majors in the first half the Oak Leaf fightback was nipped in the bud by a fourth

PJ O'Mullan's time in charge of Antrim was short-lived. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Derry manager PJ O’Mullan was proud of his side’s fightback in yesterday’s National League Division 2A final, although conceding three early goals left them too far off the pace. Picture: Seamus Loughran

Very Ireland Camogie League Division 2A final

Derry 0-16 Westmeath 4-8

WESTMEATH took the Derry defence for three goals in the first 15 minutes and that basically won Division 2A final at Croke Park yesterday. However, they still badly needed a 56th minute major from player of the match Megan Dowdall to seal victory.

Dowdall had hit the net four times in the last group game between the sides a fortnight earlier and she got the scoring started yesterday with an early point, her movement already an indicator of the scoring threat she posed.

Points from Dervla O’Kane and Áine Barton in reply were cancelled out when Dowdall caused confusion in front of the Derry posts and Sheila McGrath took a handpass before finding the net.

Three minutes later, Dowdall latched on to a long ball down the right channel, cut inside and rattled the Derry net for a second time. The same player took out the Oak Leaf defence with a brilliant handpass in the 15th minute to send McGrath clear for her second goal and the Leinster side’s third.

Derry were 3-3 to 0-3 down but showed remarkable resilience to shut up shop between then and the break.

However, at the other end they accumulated eight wides, along with three pointed frees from Barton and one from play for Bríd Rogers.

In a sense they were back in the game with a five-point deficit at half-time, but they needed a good start to the second half.

It didn’t happen for them as they registered three more wides before Dervla O’Kane hit their eighth point in the 41st minute.

By then full-forward Amelia Shaw, who was excellent playing in a sweeper’s role during the first half, had tagged on two more points for Westmeath.

Derry closed the gap to three by the 46th minute with points from Aoife Shaw, Rogers and a Barton free. But Westmeath hit back with two further frees from their own Shaw, Amelia.

Resilient Derry came back again with frees from Shaw and Barton (two) to close the gap to two points and the Oak Leaf faithful in the crowd were in full voice and hoping their team could complete the recovery and close the deal.

Westmeath needed someone to step up to the plate. Dowdall was the obvious candidate. She scored an outrageous point from under the Cusack Stand and then Méadbh McLoughlin played a pass over the top that fell well for Dowdall to race on to.

Niamh Gribbin saved well from her initial effort, but the rebound fell for Dowdall to net and finish the game as a contest.

The early goals had Derry chasing the game and wayward shooting didn’t help their attempts to get back on track.

For the last three-quarters of the game they showed they were good enough to move up a level.

Dowdall, however, left them with too much to do.

Derry N Gribbin; A Ní Chaiside, L Lennon, R Donnelly; R Downey, N Quinn, L McKenna; Á McGill, C McEldowney; Á Barton (0-9, 0-5 frees), D O’Kane (0-2), B Rogers (0-3); A Shaw (0-2, 0-1 free), J Donnelly, O Rafferty

Subs M Kerr for R Donnelly (15), C Ní Mhianáin for L McKenna (24), A Cassidy for J Donnelly (36), O Hull for O Rafferty (44), E McGuigan for Á McGill (51)

Westmeath F Keating; E McCabe, J McLoughlin, J McKeogh; M Kelly, M Scally, Á Newman; A O’Malley, H Core (0-1); H Dowdall, C McCrossan, S McGrath (2-0); M Dowdall (2-3), A Shaw (0-4, 0-3 frees), M McLoughlin

Subs M Scully for C McCrossan (47), N Horan for h Dowdall (58), A Egerton for E McCabe (60), E Broughan for S McGrath (60)

Referee C McAllister (Cork)

DERRY manager PJ O’Mullan bemoaned the opening quarter immediately after his team lost yesterday’s Division 2A final to Westmeath at Croke Park.

The Oak Leaf county conceded three goals early on, and despite a valiant fightback they could never quite get back on terms, eventually going down to a 4-8 to 0-16 defeat.

“You just can’t let a team score three goals in the opening 15 minutes in Croke Park.

“Westmeath started with a lot of aggression and it looked as if we were still on the bus.

“Once we conceded a goal, we got nervous, we made handling mistakes, fumbling a lot of ball, even experienced players were fumbling ball. That brought pressure on us, we brought problems on ourselves. Croke Park is a funny place. It sometimes does that to you.”

Derry were 3-3 to 0-3 down after the first quarter, but the Loughgiel man was pleased with how his team applied themselves for the rest of the game.

“We worked hard to get back into the game and we did get back into it,” he said.

“I think the stats are that we had 33 scoring chances and took just 16. Westmeath had 16 scoring chances and took 12 of them. We just needed to be as clinical as they were.

“Most of those wides came during the middle part of the game. By the time we got the gap down to two points – and that was a tremendous achievement – all they needed was a score to break us. They won a free that was marginal enough and got their break.

“But we did so well to get back into the game. We owned the second quarter. I think they had just one scoring chance in those 15 minutes.

“We could have done with more scores though when we were on top. We got it down to five points at half-time and probably needed a few early scores in the second half.

“Look, I won’t take anything away from Westmeath, they were the better team and deserved their win. They did the damage early and were able to contain us after that.”