Good things come to those who are willing to wait.
Westmeath ladies have been a patient bunch but the long wait came to an end last Sunday evening in Croke Park when they were crowned All-Ireland intermediate champions for the first time in the county’s history.
The relief, jubilation, and sheer emotion which greeted the final whistle was shared not just by the panel and backroom team but by a significant maroon and white army of supporters in GAA HQ and many thousand more glued to TG4. There was no doubt that the win was worth waiting for.
The joyous homecoming scenes in Kinnegad and Mullingar on Sunday evening and in Moate and Garrycastle on Monday were reminiscent of similar great days in 1995, 1999, and 2004 when their male counterparts tasted success.
Given the history between these two talented sides this replay was always going to be a tight affair. When Westmeath found themselves five points down with five minutes remaining many would have been forgiven for thinking there would be no happy ending this time around either.
However the belief and determination which characterises this group of ladies came to the fore in those vital dying minutes as they rallied to hit 1-3 without reply.
There is no doubt that the sin-binning of influential wing back Donna English de-stabilised the Cavan girls and Westmeath grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Firstly Maud Anne Foley pointed before Laura Brennan hit the net with a clinically taken penalty. Game back on.
Substitute Sarah Dolan took a leaf out of younger brother James’ book by firing over the vital equalizer as the game ticked into injury time. Elaine Finn played her captain’s part as her well taken point proved the match-winner.
Joint managers Alan Mangan and Peter Leahy and their backroom team deserve enormous credit for the belief which they instilled in this history making side. They can now look forward to plying their trade at senior level in 2012. More importantly the win should provide a major boost to ladies football in the county. Well done to all concerned.