FOOTBALL: Cavan 1-13 Westmeath 1-9 (TG4 All-Ireland SFC)
By Deniese O’Flaherty
Geraldine Sheridan scored the crucial goal and a strong finish by Cavan saw them retain their TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship status for next year and relegate Westmeath back to the Intermediate grade.
After being behind for most of the game Cavan took the lead for the first time in the 48th minute and despite Westmeath coming back at them, Gerry Moane’s side were able to hold on.
Despite having so much at stake, both sides went for it straight from the start and it was an enthralling contest.
Westmeath opened up a four-point lead in the 13th minute with points from the inspirational Sarah Dillon (two), Karen Hegarty and Ciara Blundell.
Cavan were wasteful in front of the posts and their shot selection was poor. They were awarded a penalty in the 14th minute when Geraldine Sheridan was brought down. Westmeath goalkeeper Ciara Faulkner made an excellent save from Lauren McVeety.
A pointed free from Aisling Gilsenan in the 21st minute was Cavan’s first score of the game. Dillon cancelled that out with a free of her own. McVeety and Gilsenan fired over frees to cut the gap to two in the 30th minute and just before the break Sheridan’s effort was blocked by the Westmeath defence.
Cavan were level in the 35th minute with frees from Gilsenan and McVeety but a fantastic point from Hegarty edged Westmeath back in front one minute later; their first score since the 21st minute.
Dillon’s shot in the 42nd minute eluded the Cavan keeper Elaine Walsh and dipped into the net. The lead was three but back came Cavan with two points before Sheridan finished to the net in the 48th minute to put them ahead for the first time.
Westmeath went level after a lovely Dillon point but Cavan were ahead by two twice in the final minutes. Westmeath could only respond once. And McVeety and Gilsenan kicked over frees near the end to give Cavan the win and saw them retain their Senior status for 2023.
“We made it hard for ourselves, probably, in the first half. We dug deep and thank God we got the win,” said Gilsenan.
“We felt we should’ve got a win or maybe a draw at least (against Tipperary). Tipperary were just the better team on the day. We are happy with the win today.
“We were maybe forcing it and going for the goals (in the first half). The luck got us in the second half and it started going between the post, thank God.
“We start to panic and once you get the first score you get into it. Thankfully we did.”
Both of these teams had lost all of their games in the group stages, with Westmeath suffering defeats to Kerry and Galway.
“There had to be a winner, there had to be a loser,” said Westmeath manager Michael Finneran.
“We are heartbroken; the girls are heartbroken. It’s going to be a tough dressing-room to go into. I’ve been beating the same drum all year. I’ll say the same thing again. I’m very proud of them.
“Any Westmeath supporter, all they can ask for is that they have a team that go out and give their best. Anyone here today would’ve seen they worked their socks off.
“They kicked 1-13 at the end of the day and probably deserving winners. We didn’t get enough attacks because we could hurt them when we got the ball up there.
“It’s a tough one to take, I’m devastated for the girls but they’ll bounce back.”
Scorers – Cavan: L McVeety 0-5 (4f), G Sheridan 1-1. A Gilsenan 0-3 (3f), N Keenaghan 0-2, S Greene 0-1, C McCaffrey 0-1.
Westmeath: S Dillon 1-6 (2f), K Hegarty 0-2, C Blundell 0-1.
CAVAN: E Walsh; K McIntyre, S Lynch, E Longair; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, M Sheridan; N Byrd, A Deneher; N Keenaghan, L McVeety, A Walls; G Sheridan, Á Reilly, A Gilsenan.
Subs: C O’Malley for Walls (36), A Cahill for Reilly (36).
WESTMEATH: C Faulkner; M Fagan, M Scally, A O’Malley; N Nolan, A Alford, F Coyle; V Carr, T Dillon; C Kelly, S Dillon, K Boyce-Jordan; C Blundell, K Hegarty, L Power.
Subs: S Buckley for O’Malley (36), S Lyons for Hegarty (59).
Referee: Gus Chapman (Sligo).