An outstanding performance from Rachel Kearns propelled Mayo to victory over Westmeath in Swinford and has boosted Peter Leahy's side’s hopes of reaching the Lidl National Football League Division 1 final.
A third win of the season was hard earned by Mayo, but a wonderful performance in the second half against the wind and some fine individual displays by Ciara McManamon, Kearns and Nicola O’Malley meant they were always in control against the Leinster side.
Mayo got up and running with a Natasha Gaughan free in the second minute, but with the wind at their backs the home side had to wait another 20 minutes for their next score to arrive. During that spell Tracey Dillon and Fiona Claffey were in top form for a Westmeath side who were looking to build on last week’s win over Donegal.
But crucially Mayo finished the first half strongly and two Kearns points and one from Ciara McManamon meant they were good value for their 0-4 to 0-0 half time advantage.
Mayo started the second half with a bounce in their step despite facing the conditions, but it was Westmeath that struck first against the run of play when Lucy McCartan rounded Laura Brennan to score a goal that closed the gap to a point.
Mayo’s response was impressive though. Kicking into the powerful wind Kearns landed two frees off the ground before she kicked her first from play, which put her side 0-8 to 1-0 ahead.
Another Kearns free stretched Mayo’s lead as time ticked away, but they were hauled back four minutes from time when Leona Archibold scored a penalty following a foul on Jo-Hanna Maher.
But the final say rightly went to Kearns who kicked another free to give Mayo the win, which closed the gap on leaders Galway and Cork to three points with two games remaining.
Mayo: L Brennan; N O’Malley, N Moran, Ciara McManamon (0-01); K Sullivan, E Ronayne, C Whyte; A Duffy, S Cafferky (c); N Gaughan (0-01, 0-01f), L Cafferky, M Reilly; E Brennan, R Kearns (0-08, 0-07f), M McHale.
Subs: F Doherty for Reilly (20), E Murray for Gaughan (22), D Finn for Murray (h-t, inj), Clodagh McManamon for Whyte (35), M Cannon for Dufy (44), M Reilly for McHale (44), T O’Connor for L Cafferky (56).
Westmeath: A Temple; R Dillon, S Dolan, L Power; E Kelly, F Claffey, A Roche; J Maher, V Carr; A Dolan, L Archibold (1-00), L McCartan (1-00); T Dillon, A Connolly, J Draper.
Subs: A Jones for Draper (28), F Coyle for Dolan (45), S McCormack for Connolly (53), K Hegarty for Maher (58).
Referee: Shane Curley (Galway).