Roisin Friel has a shot against Westmeath Picture: Geraldine Diver
Donegal got back to winning ways this afternoon with a four point victory over Westmeath in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny.
Donegal …….. 1-8
In what was a hard fought and scrappy encounter marred by packed defences on both sides, good open football almost impossible.
Maxi Curran made two changes to the Donegal starting lineup from the 15 that suffered a heavy 3-16 to 0-4 defeat against Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn. Niamh Hegarty replaced Shannon McLaughlin and Sinead McGinty came in for Shannon McGroddy at corner-forward.
It was the visitors that were sharpest early on and they landed the game’s opening two points. Leanne Slevin from a close in free got the scoreboard finally ticking on nine minutes and 60 seconds later Fiona Claffey split the posts with a well taken point from play.
Claffey and her midfield partner Johanna Maher were on top early while Leanne Slevin was also asking questions of the packed Donegal defence.
Donegal had all the appearances of a team a little low in confidence in those early exchanges. And it was All-Star Treasa Doherty, Emer Gallagher and Nicole McLaughlin in defence that held the defe nce together early on as the locals struggled around the middle of the field.
A quarter hour passed before Karen Guthrie got on the end of a good long delivery from Katy Herron to finally break Donegal’s duck with a fine point.
That was on 15 minutes and with Herron and Nicole McLaughlin asserting themselves in the middle third and Niamh Hegarty eager beaver like in the attack Donegal enjoyed the better of the second quarter.
Westmeath lost Sarah Dolan for ten minutes in the sin bin in the middle of the half.
However, despite their dominance in the possession stakes Donegal struggled to find a way through a packed Westmeath rearguard. Guthrie landed point number two on 19 minutes.
It was another eight minutes before Guthrie, this time from a 30 metres free, edged the locals ahead 0-3 to 0-2 with a little over three minutes left in the half.
And skipper Guthrie finished out the half with two fine points deep in injury time to give Donegal a little breathing space at the break.
Donegal resumed where the left off on the resumption and Amy Boyle Carr kicked a fine point two minutes into the new half two open up a four point 0-6 to 0-2 advantage.
Donegal looked to be pulling away when Shannon McGroddy, a half-time replacement for Sinead McGinty, rattled the back of the Westmeath net.
That was on 46 minutes and opened up a 1-6 to 0-2 lead and when Megan Ryan followed up with a well taken point the Donegal lead was out to eight.
But Westmeath, who are fighting relegation, refused to buckle. Leanne Slevin converted for their first point of the second period.
And when Johanna Maher got in a for goal shortly after, the margin was back to four and game on again.
In a frenetic closing ten minutes Guthrie and Slevin exchanged points, Donegal, who lost Megan Ryan to a yellow card in injury time, held on to take the three points.
The win confirms a place in the semi-final for Donegal who are away to Galwayin two weeks in their last game of the league.
DONEGAL: Aoife McColgan; Anna Marie McGlynn, Emer Gallagher, Evelyn McGinley; Treasa Doherty, Nicole McLaughlin, Niamh Carr; Katy Herron, Niamh Boyle; Karen Guthrie (0-6,1f), Niamh Hegarty, Amy Boyle Carr (0-1); Sinead McGinty, Megan Ryan (0-1), Roisin Friel. Subs: Shannon McGroddy (1-0) for S McGinty h/t; Tara Hegarty for E Gallagher 51; Ciara Grant for R Friel 55.
WESTMEATH: Lauren McCormack; Rachael Dillon, Jennifer Rogers, Fiona Coyle; Kelly Boyce Jordan, Maud Anne Foley, Aoife O’Malley; Fiona Claffey (0-1), Johanna Maher (1-0); Chloe Kelly, Laura Brennan, Leanne Slevin (0-3,3f); Karen Hegarty, Jess Hennessy, Sarah Dolan. Subs: Annie Dolan for J Hennessy 22; Ashley Ruane for Chloe Kelly 31; Jess Hennessy for S Dolan 49; Niamh McDermott for L Brennan 50; Megan Brick for A Ruane
REFEREE: Mel Kenny (Mayo)