Martin Flanagan’s Westmeath marched into round two of the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC qualifiers with a 1-15 to 1-07 victory over Donegal at Páirc Seán MacDiarmada on Saturday afternoon.
Karen Hegarty scored the decisive goal with 14 minutes remaining and full-forward Fiona Leavy chipped in with seven points in all as the Midlanders scored a surprisingly comfortable win.
Donegal had given quite a good account of themselves against All-Ireland contenders Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final and were expected to produce a strong performance.
But Westmeath, beaten by Meath in the Leinster quarter-final, had much of the hard work done by half-time as they had established a 0-07 to 0-02 lead, having played into the teeth of a strong wind that later subsided.
And Westmeath survived the second half sin-binning of full-back Aimee Giles to set up a clash with Mayo in the next round.
Leavy was a constant thorn in Donegal’s side and even though the Killucan player shot a number of wides, she still emerged as Westmeath’s most dangerous forward.
Leavy had three points on the board by half-time as Donegal struggled badly for scores at the other end.
Rose Boyle put the Ulster side ahead, but they had to wait 22 minutes on the time clock for another score, when Karen Guthrie pointed.
The best goal chance of the first half fell to Westmeath, but Leavy saw her shot brilliantly saved by Donegal goalkeeper Niamh Mailey in the sixth minute.
The goals did come in the second half – one for each side – and after Westmeath survived an early scare when Roisin Curran struck the post, the Donegal full-forward netted soon after with a speculative shot that Niamh Mulligan couldn’t keep out.
Eilish Ward tagged on a free and Donegal were back to within a point, 1-03 to 0-07, before Leavy added two frees for Westmeath.
The Lake County then lost Giles to that yellow card, but even though Donegal cut the deficit back to a point again, Westmeath held firm and Hegarty’s goal put them 1-10 to 1-05 clear and in a real comfort zone.
In the closing stages, Westmeath outscored Donegal by 0-05 to 0-02 to get the job done and they will provide dangerous opposition for Mayo next time out.
Scorers for Westmeath: F Leavy 0-7 (5f), K Hegarty 1-0, R Kearney & J Maher 0-2 each, T Durkan, M.A. Foley (f), C Blundell & S Dolan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Donegal: R Curran 1-1, E Ward 0-3 (2f), K Guthrie 0-2 (1f), R Boyle 0-1.
Donegal: N Mailey; O Carr, K Herron, N McLaughlin; D Foley, T McCafferty, P McCafferty; S McGroody, K Guthrie; K Feeney, A Cunningham, R Boyle; E Gallagher, R Curran, E Ward.
Substitutes: P Mannering for Cunningham (20), K McKinney for P McCafferty (35), A Cunningham for Mannering (52), N Friel for Foley (54), C Kelly for Carr (57).
Westmeath: N Mulligan; A Martin, A Giles, T Durkan; K Boyce Jordan, L Duncan, L Brennan; R Kearney, M.A. Foley; J Maher, L Walsh, C Blundell; K Hegarty, F Leavy, C Kelly.
Substitutes: S Dolan for Kelly (50), L Kiernan for Blundell (50), A Brady for Maher (56).
Referee: PJ Rabbitte (Galway).