By Daire Walsh
Champions Dublin overcame a spirited challenge from Westmeath at the DCU Sportsgrounds on Sunday to make it three wins on the bounce in Division One of the Lidl National Football League.
Despite the best efforts of Westmeath attacker Anna Jones, the experience of Carla Rowe and Noelle Healy helped the Sky Blues to maintain their push for a semi-final spot.
The hosts received an early let-off in this round four affair when Annie Dolan’s opening minute strike drifted agonisingly short of the target.
They subsequently broke the deadlock through an Eabha Rutledge point, before the impressive Jones responded at the opposite end. Amidst a torrential downpour at the St Clare’s venue, Dublin slowly settled into their customary attacking stride.
After Rowe’s close-range free edged them back in front, Aoife Kane split the posts in effortless style on the right-wing. She subsequently added a brace of points to her personal tally, including a sublime effort from play on the stroke of 20 minutes.
She dovetailed effectively with Whyte throughout the opening period and her Clann Mhuire compatriot raised another white flag to give Dublin a 0-6 to 0-1 interval cushion.
Having welcomed back Healy to the starting line-up for this contest – a precursor to the summer meeting between the two counties in the Leinster Championship – Bohan subsequently introduced Sinead Goldrick as one of four half-time substitutions.
Even though Siobhan Killeen’s point was cancelled out by the industrious Jones, Dublin grabbed the opening goal of the game on 41 minutes. Healy’s speculative shot looked set to float over the crossbar, only to ultimately drift beyond the reach of stranded Westmeath goalkeeper Karen Walsh.
While this offered Dublin a seemingly unassailable eight-point buffer, a gallant Westmeath persevered with their challenge. Leanne Slevin found the range on the third-quarter mark, and with Metropolitan midfielder Olwen Carey in the sin-bin, Westmeath secured a three-pointer of their own.
With just nine remaining, Jones bravely palmed beyond the reach of Dublin’s replacement ’keeper Rachel Fleming.
This was as close as the Lake County came to staging a comeback, however, and a stoppage-time point by 2018 Footballer of the Year Sinead Aherne eased Dublin over the line.
Scorers – Dublin: C Rowe 0-3 (2f), N Healy 1-0, O Whyte 0-2, S Aherne 0-1 (1f), A Kane 0-1, S Killeen 0-1.
Westmeath: A Jones 1-2, L Slevin 0-1 (1f).
Dublin: C Trant; R Ruddy, N Collins, E McDonagh; A Kane, L Magee, S Fagan; C Rowe, O Carey; E Rutledge, N Owens, K Sullivan; S Kileen, N Healy, O Whyte.
Subs: R Fleming for Trant (h-t), O Nolan for Rutledge (h-t), N Hetherton for Whyte (h-t), S Goldrick for Fagan (h-t), S Aherne for Sullivan (41), C McGuigan for Rowe (45), S Woods for Collins (45), N McEvoy for Killeen (55).
Westmeath: K Walsh; R Dillon, J Rogers, L Power; F Coyle, N Feery, F Claffey; M-A Foley, V Carr; J Maher, A Jones, L McCartan; L Slevin, S Dillon, A Dolan.
Subs: K McDermott for Maher (23), A O’Malley for Carr (25), S Dolan for Dillon (h-t), Maher for O’Malley (h-t), Dillon for Dolan (39), Carr for McDermott (50), L Brennan for Maher (55), A Ruane for Slevin (61).
Referee: J Murphy (Carlow).