The working theory was that Dublin had drifted back ever so slightly towards the chasing pack this season but Westmeath never came close to testing that in a woefully one-sided Leinster semi-final at HQ on Sunday afternoon, writes Brendan O’Brien at Croke Park.
This was Dublin’s biggest win under Jim Gavin, and one secured in front of 33,370 people at Croke Park, but the paucity of the challenge can’t be ignored. Kildare will certainly expect to discommode them much more in the provincial decider on July 16.
Westmeath had been crushed underfoot by the Dubs in the previous two provincial deciders but the idea that it was somehow better to meet the capital side a round earlier, given they could be further from their full stride, was undone all too quickly.
The midland side kept pace for all of, well, ten minutes, Kieran Martin made it four points apiece at that stage but the contest was soon smothered beneath an avalanche of scores from a Dublin side facing into its beloved Hill 16 in the first period.
They outscored Westmeath 1-11 to 0-1 for the next 25 minutes, the goal arriving courtesy of a Dean Rock flick to the net after good approach work by Eric Lowndes, but there had been a handful of other occasions when three-pointers had been avoided by a last-ditch hand or boot.
Westmeath weren’t doing much wrong, per se. Thirteen men tracked back behind the ball when their opponents approached, and they dispossessed a man by sheer dint of numbers more than once, but the sheer volume of assaults was impossible to thwart.
Access into the game was made so much more difficult by the fact that goalkeeper Darren Quinn’s long kick-outs were gobbled up time and again by a man in a blue shirt and that made moments of relief and consolidation all too much of a rarity.
Thirteen points up on the restart, Dublin called off some of the dogs. Literally. Gavin used the scoreboard advantage to start switching things around as early as the interval and the cut and thrust of his side inevitably lost something in the cut and paste process in the third quarter.
One of the new faces was the unpredictable Eoghan O’Gara whose station on the edge of the square was found by a long Ciaran Kilkenny ball in and the sub’s catch, turn and venomous shot to the net was probably the day’s main highlight.
There was still a good half-hour to play at that stage, every second of it a penance for Westmeath, their fans and any neutrals still of a mind to stick around until the bitter end which didn’t come until Kilkenny and Kevin McManamon claimed the third and fourth goals of the day.
Grim, embarrassing, pointless stuff.
Scorers for Dublin: P Mannion (0-8); D Rock (1-5, 0-3 frees, 0-2 ‘45’s); C Kilkenny (1-3); K McManamon (1-1): C O’Callaghan (0-3); E O’Gara (1-0); B Fenton, P Andrews and S Carthy (all 0-2); B Brogan (0-2, 0-1 free); J McCaffrey (0-1).
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (0-4, 0-3 frees); K Martin (0-3); J Egan (0-2); G Egan (0-1).
Dublin: S Cluxton; C O’Sullivan, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; E Lowndes, J Cooper, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; C Kilkenny, C O’Callaghan, N Scully; D Rock, P Andrews, P Mannion. Subs: E O’Gara for Andrews (HT); S Carthy for Cooper (44); D Byrne for Fitzsimons (44); K McManamon for Rock and B Brogan for Scully (both 48); B Howard for O’Callaghan (61);
Westmeath: D Quinn; J Gonoud, K Maguire, F Boyle; D Lynch, K Daly, J Dolan; G Egan, A Gaughan; J Egan, P Sharry. C McCormack; M McCallon, K Martin, J Heslin. Subs: N Mulligan for Gaughan (HT); K Reilly for McCormack (49); C Boyle for Daly (51); S Corcoran for Egan (53); D Glennon for Sharry (57); A Stone for Lynch (65);
Referee: C Lane (Cork).