Dublin not about to become victim of Leinster final ambush
Westmeath to be brought back down to earth by Jim Gavin’s in-form side
Manager Jim Gavin says hunger in Dublin camp is as sharp as ever. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Each game in isolation. Control the controllables. Prepare answers to every question. Repeat ad nauseum. Being a Dublin footballer, or their manager Jim Gavin, is a test of patience.
Off the field anyway. In the midst of Croke Park they must know they are touching the purest football imaginable.
People nowadays are never satisfied because Dublin are so good and Leinster is so weak. The bookmakers appear generous with a 15-point handicap for tomorrow’s Leinster final. Their average winning margin after Longford and Kildare is 23 points.
“Westmeath have had a great championship run,” said Gavin. “Seven goals and 52 points, we’d be quite chuffed if a Dublin team scored that in three games. Whatever they’re doing in there is working for them.”
It’s easy to be glib but Westmeath were astonishingly good in their thrilling recovery against Meath. Kieran Martin is a centre back in the Dublin half-forward mould who ended up on the square’s edge, where he tortured Donal Keogan. He will relish a tussle with Rory O’Carroll or Philly McMahon.
John Heslin’s stunning 1-10 in the semi-final confirms him among the top five per cent of forwards in Ireland. Clever and precise, Heslin is comfortable filling the void left by Dessie Dolan. Denis Glennon, a veteran now, is expected to join the fray, probably before half-time, which keeps the other inside forwards on their toes.
The Connellans of Athlone, John and Ray, must contribute along with Shane Dempsey if the upset of the century is to be done. Ger Egan, the captain at centre forward, must get on a wealth of ball too. That’s presuming they are not overrun in all other sectors.
They were perfect in the last 20 minutes against Meath but that approached cannot be maintained. Tom Cribbin is not to Westmeath as Jack Sheedy is to Longford. No manly man-to-man stuff here. That lesson has been learned. Guerrilla warfare is the only way to stop Dublin.
That means Heslin roaming the plains alone in search of scraps, while Martin’s muscular frame awaits any opportunity inside. He is named at six. He can’t stay there if Westmeath are to hurt Dublin. The rest of them must light this final up from distance.
Mayo, Kerry and Donegal have been suitably challenged in early summer skirmishes. Dublin need to be. Hard to see that happening. Still can’t wait to see what does.