Dublin cruise to sixth Leinster title in a row
DUBLIN 2-19 WESTMEATH 0-10
Little flecks of encouragement for all those with designs on Dublin’s All-Ireland title this autumn but ultimately, more of the same in Croke Park yesterday.
Jim Gavin’s team became the first to win six Leinster titles in a row since the most storied football side ever to come from the capital; Kevin Heffernan’s of 1974 to ’79 and in doing so, mowed down Westmeath.
But they were, at least, forced to figure it out here.
In a break with recent tradition, they struggled to find their gear until the second half against a Westmeath team playing in their second successive provincial final and especially early on, showed the fruits of that experience.
At half-time, Dublin led by just a point after a jagged, tense half.
Westmeath played it well.
After a build-up during which they stated their intentions to take the fight to Dublin in a more comprehensive way than they did in last year’s Leinster decider, the 25/1 outsiders frustrated the All-Ireland champions in the first half.
They attacked in bigger numbers but also, with more certainty about what they were trying to achieve.
Francis Boyle and Calum McCormack swept.
Mostly, they played with John Heslin and Kieran Martin as an inside forward pairing with Ray Connellan operating as a link man until an awkward fall in the 35th minute forced his removal.
Connellan recently signed a contract with AFL club St Kildare, though the pain caused by the fall which looked localised to his knee, was self-evident.
For Westmeath, his loss particularly in the air, was palpable.
Tension spilled over, too.
Diarmuid Connolly and James Dolan grappled late in the half, as players from both teams became embroiled in meaty enough exchanges, though the yellow cards dished out to both killed the mood.
As the whistle went after eight minutes of injury-time, Westmeath supporters rose in loud celebration of their team’s effort and there and then, you could easily construct an argument for a competitive second-half.
Yet the most impressive part of the day was how Dublin adapted in the second half and accelerated towards the Delaney Cup.
Gavin responded with the unusual move of taking off a defender – Eric Lowndes – and replacing him with a forward, Paddy Andrews.
And in essence, they played the important part of the second-half with seven forwards pushed up on Westmeath’s defence.
At one stage, Dublin had eight recognised forwards on the pitch.
The effects were both obvious and immediate.
Within 33 seconds, Bernard Brogan had snapped off a second point and Dublin outscored Westmeath by 0-10 to 0-1 in the first 20 minutes of the second half to kill the game.
Brogan – who finished with 1-4 – finished a sweet move and a squared pass from Brian Fenton and with Westmeath so stretched in search of scores, Dublin opened them up again for a rifled goal from Kevin McManamon in the 69th minute.
In the end, they beat Westmeath by two points more than last year and their second half haul of 2-12 may just be their most impressive display of late in a Leinster Championship they have turned into their own personal fiefdom.
Dublin: D Rock 0-8 (8f), B Brogan 1-4, K McManamon 1-2, P Andrews 0-2, J Small, P Flynn, D Connolly 0-1 each. Westmeath: J Heslin 0-6 (5f), G Egan 0-2, D Corroon, C McCormack 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; C Cooper, D Byrne, P McMahon; J Small, C O’Sullivan, E Lowndes; B Fenton, MD Macauley; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; K McManamon, D Rock, B Brogan. Subs: P Andrews for Lowndes (h-t), C O’Callaghan for Macauley (48), D Bastick for Connolly (52), D Daly for Small (56), M Fitzsimons for O’Sullivan (60), P Mannion for Rock (63).
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; K Daly, F Boyle, J Conoud; K Maguire, J Dolan, D Lynch; D Corroon, G Egan; A Stone, P Sharry, R Connellan; J Heslin, K Martin, C McCormack. Subs: D Daly for R Connellan (35 inj), S Corcoran for Lynch (53), S Duncan for K Daly (55), J Connellan for Martin (59), D McNicholas for Sharry (65)
REFEREE: F Kelly (Longford)