Published: Wednesday, 4th July, 2012 4:52pm
Meath's Vivienne McCormack under pressure from Westmeath's Jenny Rogers on Sunday.
Meath 2-7, Westmeath 0-8
Meath ladies survived a stern examination from last year's All-Ireland IFC champions Westmeath at The Downs on Sunday to book a place in the Leinster SFC decider against Dublin on Sunday 15th July.
This was Westmeath's first championship outing at senior level and based on this performance they can look forward to the All-Ireland series with some degree of optimism as they can reflect on an encouraging display against a Div 1 team that has lots of experience.
And Meath needed all that experience to emerge from The Downs with a merited, but hard-earned victory that was all the more laudable as they played the final 10 minutes with 14 players after Oldcastle's Eileen Rahill was yellow-carded and sent to the sin bin.
Meath missed a lot of early chances as they endeavoured to establish a platform for victory and were punished in the fifth minute when Westmeath's Maud Annie Foley, a niece of Kevin Foley, split the posts from a free.
The Westmeath ladies worked very hard to curtail Meath's chances, but the Royals claimed a goal of the 'soft' variety soon after when a speculative Fiona Mahon centre dropped under the crossbar.
Westmeath goalie Christine Watrburton may have been unsighted by Mary Sherdian's efforts to get a touch on the ball, but it was an opportune boost for the Royals that arrived at the right time.
That turned out to be Meath's only score during a fiercely contested opening 22 minutes and they also failed to score from play for the remainder of the half.
Meath were actually flattered to go in at the interval with a 1-3 to 0-3 advantage. Katie O'Brien claimed Meath's first point when she converted a 22nd minute free and she also closed her side's opening half account from another free, in the third minute of injury-time. Shauna Bennett also sent over a late free.
Westmeath enjoyed a fine opening half and managed further points from Foley and Johanna Maher.
Maher's point was the best score of that opening half - a fine individual effort following a surging 50-metre run that unhinged what was an
otherwise solid Meath rearguard.
The tempo increased after the resumption and Westmeath really put it up to their more illustrious opponents.
Pointed frees from Laura Walsh and Karen Hegarty kept the vocal home crowd happy while Meath managed a point from O'Brien.
Following a bout of intense Westmeath pressure that yielded a solitary point from Fiona Claffey the Royal County manufactured another goal with the same two players involved.
This time Mahon centred and Sheridan fisted to the net from about five metres despite pressure from Warburton and Westmeath full-back Carole Finch.
O'Brien added her second point from play a minute later for a 2-5 to 0-6 third-quarter lead, but when Rahill was sin-binned with 10 minutes remaining it gave Westmeath a glimmer of hope.
Meath substitute Laura Dempsey sent over two superb points in the closing stages that were matched by similar efforts for Westmeath by Ciara Blundell and Elaine Finn.
Twice Westmeath had goal chances, but Irene Munnelly proved her worth with solid saves that have become the norm for St Ultan's player who earlier this year scooped the Meath Chronicle / Cusack Hotel Group 'outstanding individual' sports award for 2011.
Meath - Irene Munnelly (St Ultan's); Orla Byrne (Duleek/Bellewstown), Aedin Murray (Navan O'Mahonys), Orla Sheridan (Seneschalstown); Bridgetta Lynch (Oldcastle), Eileen Rahill (Oldcastle), Emma Troy (Boardsmill); Shauna Bennett (St Ultan's 0-1), Fiona Mahon (Seneschalstown 1-0); Mary Sheridan (Seneschalstown 1-0), Katie O'Brien (St Ultan's 0-4 two frees), Vivienne McCormack (Clann na nGael); Jenny Rispin (Summerhill), Colleen Jordan (Skryne), Kate Byrne (Duleek/Bellewstown). Subs - Laura Dempsey (Boardsmill 0-2) for K Byrne 25 mins, Michelle Peel (Donaghmore/Ashbourne) for Rispin 45m, Colleen Jordan (Skryne) for McCormack 50m.
Westmeath - C Warburton; A Martin, C Finch, A Brady; K Boyce-Jordan, J Rogers, T Fagan; R Kearney, MA Foley (0-2 frees); J Maher (0-1), E Finn (0-1), F Claffey (0-1); L Walsh (0-1 free), K Hegarty (0-1 free), C Blundell (0-1). Sub - E Morris for Blundell.
Referee - Pat Keogh (Carlow).