By Dan Bannon
Monaghan secured their precious Senior status with a convincing victory over Westmeath in the TG4 All-Ireland SFC Relegation Play-off Final in Dunleer.
A towering display from Louise Kerley at full-forward saw her contribute 1-11 to her side’s tally, while the returning Cora Courtney was superb throughout and the duo combined to expertly guide their side to safety.
Monaghan’s better use of the wind in the opening half saw them pull 12 points clear at half-time, and despite playing with 12 players at one stage following two sin-binnings and Abbie McCarey’s red card they held on to win easily.
Monaghan started the fresher with the extra week’s rest helping them settle, with Cora Courtney on target for the Ulster side. That score was most welcome considering Monaghan had injected four players from their losing All-Ireland minor final team into their panel.
But after Leanne Slevin got Westmeath up and running, her side hit the next two scores to claim a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
With Kerley finding her range with four quick points, Monaghan continued to build their lead, and during their most dominant period Niall Treanor’s side scored seven points in a row in a devastating nine-point turnaround.
Such was the strength of the wind Westmeath failed to get the ball out of their half at times, but Slevin pulled one back for the midlanders to make it 0-8 to 0-4. But, that was as good as it got for Sean Finnegan’s side, while Sarah Dolan picked up a yellow card meaning they would end the half with 14 players.
With that numerical advantage Monaghan kicked on and scored 1-5 without reply before half-time including Kerley’s palmed goal, which gave them a 1-13 to 0-4 lead at the interval.
Monaghan were quick out of the blocks in the second period too, with a goal from midfielder Jennifer Duffy in the second minute of the half putting them 15 points clear.
There was some moments of frustration for Monaghan who had Duffy and Cora Courtney sin-binned before McCarey’s red in the closing stages, but Westmeath also finished with 13 players following red cards for Johanna Maher and Sarah Dolan.
With space appearing all over the field Westmeath continued to fight for their senior status and a goal from Anna Jones trimmed their deficit, but it was too late to haul in Monaghan who will play senior football again in 2020.
Scorers – Monaghan: L Kerley 1-11 (9f), C Treanor 1-1, J Duffy 1-0, C Courtney 0-2, R Courtney, C McAnespie 0-1, C McBride 0-1, A McCarey 0-1. Westmeath: L Slevin 0-7 (6f), A Jones 1-1, L McCartan 0-1 G Halligan 0-1.
Monaghan: N McGuirk; H McSkane, S Boyd, A McAnespie; C Courtney, E Woods, N Kerr; A McCarey, J Duffy; R Courtney, E McAnespie, C McBride; C McAnespie, L Kerley, C Treanor. Subs: M Monaghan for McBride (39), B Tierney for Kerr (44), H Sherlock for Treanor (59), R Hughes for Woods (60).
Westmeath: L McCormack; L Power, J Rogers, R Dillon; V Carr, K McDermott, N Feery; F Claffey, MA Foley; J Maher, S Dolan, A Jones; K Hegarty, L Slevin, A Dolan. Subs: L Brennan for A Dolan (h-t), G Halligan for Hegarty (41), L McCartan for Carr (41), E Kelly for Power (51), Hegarty for Claffey (60).
Ref – B Redmond (Wexford).Tweet