Notwithstanding the paucity of challenge offered by Westmeath yesterday, Dublin do appear to have regained their goalscoring mojo.
They ended up with four but could have had that many by half-time such was the quality of their forward movement.
and their incisiveness around the attacking zone.
It was a welcome change from the blanks they’d been firing with more regularity than normal this year.
Dublin failed to score a goal in three of their league games and didn’t create a single goal scoring chance against Carlow in the Leinster quarter-finals.
That all changed at Croke Park where they carved out several great openings before Dean Rock palmed home their first major. Eoghan O’Gara, Ciaran Kilkenny and Kevin McManamon added second-half goals as Dublin beefed up their scoring statistics for the year.
Westmeath didn’t exactly throw the kitchen sink at Dublin but they weren’t nearly as defensive as they were last year or, particularly, in the 2015 Leinster final either.
That was laudable and may please pundits like Dessie Dolan, their former All-Star, who suggested beforehand that they should play to their attacking strengths.
But the reality is that Dublin’s two biggest wins in the Championship since Jim Gavin took over have been against sides that didn’t set up with blanket defences; Westmeath yesterday and Longford in 2015.
Jack Sheedy was adamant before his Longford side met Dublin two years ago that they wouldn’t resort to crude defensive measures but they lost by 27 points.
Whether that, and Westmeath’s 31-point drubbing, has convinced Kildare manager Cian O’Neill to rip up his own script ahead of next month’s Leinster final remains to be seen.
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin admitted his players were ‘embarrassed’ after their hefty defeat and suggested that consideration to a ‘B’ championship, or some form of second tier competition, must be given.
Over in London, Carlow played out an entertaining All-Ireland qualifier clash with London and won by a point.
They will take plenty of heart from that though Cribbin would presumably like to see all of those lower ranked counties competing in an alternative structure. The strange reality is that if there was a vote in the morning, Cribbin’s proposal would almost certainly be shot down and Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien indicated as much after his side lost to Dublin earlier this month.
He made a point of asking pundits not to shed any ‘crocodile tears’ for defeated Carlow whom, he claimed, still deserved to play in the big games.
As long as that sentiment exists, results like yesterday’s at Croke Park will continue to occur.
To put the scale of Down’s achievement in beating Monaghan in the Ulster semi-finals into context, consider the pre-match prediction of MarcÓ Sé.
The Kerry man d regarded it as a done deal that Malachy O’Rourke’s men would face down Tyrone in this year’s Ulster final. “Monaghan, and I’ve said this from the start of the year, once they have all their players available to them...I really think that they can push on this year,” said Ó Sé on Colm Parkinson’s GAA Hour podcast.
“If they have their full outfit this year I’d be very surprised.
I know Tyrone are there but I genuinely think that Monaghan are serious contenders.”
For the third game running, however, Monaghan turned in a flat performance and the prevailing narrative that Jack McCarron is the man to share the scoring burden with Conor McManus has been shot to pieces.
It was, in hindsight, a tailor made ‘Banty’ moment. Wexford, away from home and perched upon the precipice of a disastrous season, had to dig remarkably deep to sneak past Limerick by a point.
And boss ‘Banty’ McEneaney, who cried tears outside the Monaghan dressing-room after their one-point All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kerry in 2007, was always going to fancy a challenge like that.
He faced a similar challenge in 2012 when his Meath team, who’d been relegated to Division 3 of the league, weren’t given a chance against Kildare at Croke Park.
To everyone’s surprise, they won and then ran Dublin to within three points in the Leinster final. Still, it was a close run thing on Saturday and Wexford were fortunate that the Shannonsiders wasted so many good chances, including a first-half penalty.
‘Banty’s’ competitive record with Wexford now reads; win, win, win, win, win, loss, loss, loss, loss, win.