Down fight to the end but wides take big toll
Down 1-13 Westmeath 2-11
Down manager Martina Rooney hailed the performance of her players in the wake of their narrow 2-11 to 1-13 defeat by Westmeath in the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship semi-final.
The Mourne outfit, who had been 1-6 to 0-7 in arrears at half-time, played with considerable passion and commitment in the second half but were unable to counter their opponents' work-rate and physicality.
Niamh Mallon epitomised the spirit of the Ulster side by snapping up eight points while Saoirse Sands fired in their only goal with 10 minutes remaining, but the team were unable to turn the match round.
"The girls put in a tremendous effort against what was a strong Westmeath side and they just missed out in the end. Obviously we are devastated at this setback," says Rooney.
A Megan Dowdall goal in the 19th minute infused fresh spirit into Westmeath just when Down were beginning to impose themselves, and with Pamela Greville accurate from frees and play, they eased themselves into a relatively comfortable position at the interval.
Mallon, who scored five points in the first half for Down, always posed a threat to the Westmeath defence through her skill and stick work and she continued to lead her team's resistance in the second period. Fionnula Carr, Paula O'Hagan and Aimee McAleenan were others who stood up to the mark.
But Westmeath's solid defence and stubborn demeanour meant that Down were afforded little leeway and when Sheila McGrath pounced for the midland team's second goal in the 40th minute this proved the platform from which they launched their victory charge.
The goal left Down trailing by five points and this proved a difficult deficit to make good, particularly as Westmeath had gained in confidence.
Substitute Saoirse Sands provided Down with a boost when she rifled home their only goal with 10 minutes to go but Westmeath were still able to keep the Mourne side n check.
The fact that Down shot 11 wides overall, some from good scoring positions, ultimately contrived to undo some of their excellent approach work as Westmeath held out to book their place against Galway in the final.