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Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-11 Dublin's six-in-a-row push underway with a comfortable win against Westmeath

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Ciaran Kilkenny was very influential as Dublin eased into the Leinster semi-final. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ciaran Kilkenny was very influential as Dublin eased into the Leinster semi-final. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ciaran Kilkenny was very influential as Dublin eased into the Leinster semi-final. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Dublin’s first obstacle on the road to six-in-a-row of All-Ireland football titles was overcome with the minimum of fuss in Portlaoise.

They dismissed Westmeath’s challenge in the in the Leinster quarter-final with man of hte match Ciaran Kilkenny outstanding, kicking five points from play.

Only a late injury for Eoin Murchan in any way spoiled Dessie Farrell’s first day as Dublin boss - the Na Fianna speedster had to be helped from the pitch near the end with an ankle issue.

The only other issue as the game petered out was would Dublin cover the bookies’ spread of 14 to 16 points, depending on where you shopped. It was evident from a long way out that Dublin would need a goal to cover it, but Westmeath protected their net to the end, as if to say they would take that much from the night of their departure from the Championship.

It is hard that Westmeath leave the competition on the back of a match they never really had a chance of winning. It won’t get much easier for them in the spring with their place in Division Two of the League under threat as Mayo, Meath and Cork join that section for next year.

Before the year turns, this Dublin team have their eye on even more history. And last night’s evidence is that the change of manager has not changed much for the All-Ireland champions.

Dublin made three late changes to the team they had announced for the match with Tom Lahiff of St. Judes coming in for his Championship debut at midfield beside Brian Fenton. Sean Bugler also started in the Dublin attack, as did Paddy Small.

Paul Mannion, an AllStar in each of the last three seasons, was named among the subs as Farrell’s team took their first step in this strangest of All-Irelands journeys

Darren Daly, now retired, but one of the Dublin footballers with seven All-Ireland medals, appeared in the match programme as a Dublin selector.

He wasn’t missed as a player as Dublin scorched into a five-point lead by the time the first-half water break was reached. The Dublin attack was moving crisply and Dean Rock soon had three points on the board.

Westmeath’s problem was retaining the ball on their own kick-outs. Dublin’s close marking was giving the Westmeath ‘keeper Jason Daly no short option and when he went long, Fenton was ruling the skies.

Within 25 minutes the six starting Dublin forwards had scored as they picked off their points with ease. And by half-time Dublin had turned their undoubted dominance into a 0-15 to 0-6 lead.

Ciaran Kilkenny was the leading light of the period, scoring three points from play to go with incredible workrate. At one point this playmaker and scorer for the Dubs was to be found hoovering up a loose ball just a yard from his own end-line.

As for something different that Farrell had brought to the party, well it wasn’t on show so far. It was the same mix for Dublin of hard running, strong tackling, the appreciation of space and finding one of the scorers in that space to take the scoring shot accurately. In those hoary old words, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’.

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And Westmeath could do nothing much to fix it in the second half even with the breeze at their backs. By now the rain was falling in O’Moore Park and Westmesth had nowhere near the slickness of the Dubs to create and convert scoring chances.

They hung in and tried to keep Dublin honest, but now Farrell began to run his bench with the likes of David Byrne, Brian Howard and Cormac Costello all coming in for action.

It was a warning to all, that while players have retired, Dublin still possess the deepest resources of anyone.


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