McGrath on fire but Lake County girls suffer defeat
Laois firepower proves too much for Westmeath outfit
DESPITE the best efforts of outstanding full-forward Denise McGrath, Westmeath ultimately came off second best in the semi-final of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship, as the Niamh Dollard-inspired Laois booked their place in the competition’s September 15th decider with a commanding 11-point success.
The influential McGrath (who is a member of the Ballyboden-St Enda’s club in south Dublin) was the game’s top scorer with an astonishing haul of 3-3 (all of which came from open play), but with the Laois attack performing at their optimum level throughout the contest, they were never able to develop enough momentum following her various three-point efforts.
With the Lake County also missing a number of their starting team from last year’s campaign, Laois were viewed as the pre-match favourites for this penultimate round fixture, and they certainly built up a strong early platform, as half-forward Louise Mahony contributed three points (including two from placed balls) in as many minutes at the start of the contest.
Westmeath soon settled into their stride, though, as an excellent pass into the square by Raharney midfielder Fiona Leavy was latched on to by McGrath, who finished coolly with a low finish from close-in past Laois netminder Laura Dunne.
This score did help to settle Yvette Cully’s charges to a certain degree, and even though Mahony (‘45’) and midfielder Claire Walsh did respond with points for Laois, Dinah Loughlin and the ever-dangerous McGrath were on hand to level matters by the 13th minute with a couple of eye-catching attempts from distance.
While the O’Moore County were dominating the territorial areas, they were proving to be rather wasteful with some of their shot selections, and as a consequence, Westmeath remained in contention for much of the opening period.
Laois started to find their range on a more frequent basis as the half wore on, however, and a brace of excellent scores by Sile Burke, along with one apiece from Walsh and Olga Parkinson, (who completed an all-Camross full-forward line, along with Burke and Niamh Dollard, for her side) opened up some daylight between the teams.
A second successful free by centre-fielder Loughlin 28 minutes in looked set to keep Westmeath well in touch at the break, but they were hit by a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time when Laois registered their opening goal of the day.
Parkinson was the instigator of this move, as her neat pass inside enabled Dollard to gather the ball on the left-hand side, and she proceeded to race through on goal before shooting to the net to Fiona Keating’s right.
This score meant that Westmeath had to deal with a six-point deficit (1-9 to 1-3) upon the resumption, and their task became even more difficult when Dollard added to her tally with a 32nd minute point from play.
However, McGrath was in sparkling form throughout, and she reduced the margin considerably three minutes after the restart when she capitalised on a loose ball in the Laois defence, and planted the ball into the top left-hand corner of the goal in spectacular fashion.
The gauntlet was now being thrown down to Laois, but with Mahony replying from a ‘45’ on 36 minutes, and inspirational Westmeath centre-back Aisling Conaty departing the scenes with an injury 20 minutes from the end, they were keeping a safe distance between themselves and their Leinster rivals.
As the play started to open up, Laois took full advantage, with crucial green flag strikes in the 44th and 45th minutes respectively by Burke and Mahony issuing a further blow to the Westmeath cause.
Cully’s side are nothing if not resilient, though, and a majestic 1-1 salvo by the outstanding McGrath (the major completing the Delvin native’s hat-trick) did give 2012 Junior ‘A’ Champions an outside chance of forging a dramatic comeback in the final ten minutes of play.
Unfortunately, a 51st minute major courtesy of Dollard (her second) put paid to Westmeath’s prospects, and even though McGrath was once again on target with a point from play five minutes from time, Laois brought the day’s scoring to an end with expertly-taken attempts by substitute Grace O’Neill and the industrious Walsh.
This exit from the Championship will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to the Westmeath girls, but with many having expected them to struggle in this year’s Championship, a semi-final finish represents a very strong 2013 for the Lake County, and they are certainly in a good position to build on this progress in the years to come.
Laois: L Mahony 1-5 (0-2 ‘45’, 0-2f), N Dollard 2-1, S Burke 1-2, C Walsh, O Parkinson 0-2 each, G O’Neill. Westmeath: D McGrath 3-3, D Loughlin 0-2 (frees).
Fiona Keating; Laura Hannon, Sarah King, Julie McLaughlin; Jemma Egan-Maybury, Aisling Conaty, Eileen Murphy; Fiona Leavy, Dinah McLoughlin; Caitriona Murtagh, Mairead McCormack, Ciara Corcoran; Laura Thompson, Denise McGrath, Nicola Fagan.
Subs: Nadina Grace for McLaughlin (23), Muireann Scally for Hannon (27), Teresa Lynch for
Conaty (40), Elizabeth Hannon for Egan-Maybury (54), Caroline Kelly for Corcoran (57).
Laura Dunne; Mairead Burke, Karen Cuddy, Caitriona Downey; Aishling Dunphy, Sarah Ann Fitzgerald, Eimear Delaney; Claire Walsh, Elaine Mahony; Sarah Cuddy, Denise Quigley, Louise Mahony; Sile Burke, Olga Parkinson, Niamh Dollard.
Subs: Joan Dollard for M Burke (half-time), Joyce Dunne for Cuddy (half-time), Rosemary Bermingham for E Mahony (42-46), Grace O’Neill for Burke (54), Bermingham for Dunphy (56), Cuddy for N Dollard (56).
Pat Walsh (Monaghan).