Dubs cruise to fifth consecutive Leinster title with strong second-half performance

Dublin 2-13 Westmeath 0-6

By Paul Keane

The opposition and the defensive challenge was a novel one for Dublin but the end result was familiar as the All-Ireland favourites strode to a fifth consecutive Leinster football title success at Croke Park.

Jim Gavin's side have rarely faced such a defensive style in their own province but after a mediocre start came good with a strong second-half to win big again.

Goals from Bernard Brogan and defender Jack McCaffrey early in the second-half ensured that Dublin, remarkably, have now won eight of their last nine provincial games by double-digit margins.

Aside from progression to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, there were plenty of positives for Dublin, chiefly that they overcame the sort of blanket defence challenge they may face further down the line.

Westmeath shot 7-54 in their three previous Leinster games but experimented with a novel defensive game plan in training and challenge games and came to Croke Park armed with claustrophobic intent.

Shane Dempsey begun as their one-man full-forward line with John Heslin and Kieran Martin dropping out deep to shore up their middle third. At times, they had 14 men behind the ball.

Dublin found it hard initially to pick their way through Westmeath's maroon blockade initially and led by just 0-3 to 0-1 after 19 minutes.

Back to back Dean Rock scores shortly after opened up a four-point advantage though and one wondered if Westmeath would have the discipline to maintain their new shape and game plan.

But they stuck to their task diligently and picked off enough points before half-time to remain in the game at 0-8 to 0-4 down.

In fact, they departed the pitch to huge cheers, emphasising the regard that their supporters held Dublin in that they felt a double scores deficit was a positive situation.

Even against a buttressed Westmeath defence, Dublin ominously found scores easier to come by. Ciaran Kilkenny was their most potent attacker early on and kicked two first-half scores while Rock matched him from frees.

Westmeath were made to fight so much harder for their scores. For example, Martin's 33rd minute point which was Westmeath's first from open play came from a turnover on Michael Darragh Macauley at the other end of the pitch. When the ball was eventually transferred to Westmeath's attack, Martin had to expend all his energy to shake off Cian O'Sullivan and split the posts.

Within minutes of the restart the life the life was sucked from Westmeath's challenge. Dublin blasted 2-1 without reply in that period and, suddenly, a four-point deficit had turned to 11.

For all of Westmeath's extra bodies at the back, they couldn't prevent Kilkenny and Paul Flynn from combining and putting a ball across goals that Brogan fisted in.

Moments later, Jack McCaffrey sprinted clear down the left and beat Darren Quinn again with a driven finish.

The game petered out from there on with just six points traded between the teams in the remaining half hour or so. Typically, two thirds of those went Dublin's way as they surged to a 13-point win.

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Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan (1-1); J McCaffrey (1-0); D Connolly and C Kilkenny (0-3 each); D Rock (0-2, 2 frees); P McMahon, J McCarthy, MD Macauley and A Brogan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (0-3, 2 frees); K Martin (0-2); F Boyle (0-1).

Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD Macauley; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly; Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, B Brogan.

Subs: M Fitzsimons for Cooper (h/t), P Andrews for McManamon (47), D Bastick for Macauley (51), A Brogan for Rock (55), J Small for McMahon (61), T Brady for Connolly (65).

Westmeath: D Quinn; K Maguire, F Boyle, K Daly; D Lynch, P Sharry, J Dolan; P Holloway, D Corroon; G Egan, R Connellan, J Gilligan; K Martin, J Heslin, S Dempsey.

Subs: K Gavin for Dempsey and P Greville for Lynch (both h/t), C McCormack for Connellan (52), D Glennon for Holloway (53), John Egan for Heslin (61), J Gonoud for McCormack (64).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).


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