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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018

Dublin are kings of Leinster again after blitzing battling Westmeath

Dublin clinched another Leinster football crown with a 13-point win over Westmeath.

Image: ©INPHO

Dublin 2-13

Westmeath 0-6

– Niall Kelly reports from Croke Park

DUBLIN FLICKED A switch, killed the game, and clinched their 10th Leinster title in 11 seasons.

With two goals in one remarkable second-half minute. Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey ensured that Westmeath’s chances were quite literally gone in 60 seconds.

The juggernaut rolls on — but not in the manner that the capital’s aristocrats might have expected. For 40 minutes, the bookies’ odds of 1/500 on a Dublin win looked well wide of the mark. With a performance that was as disciplined as it was determined, Westmeath made sure of that.

It led to a game that was an absorbing tactical battle, in the first half at least, rather than the swashbuckling displays of showmanship that we’ve seen from Dublin to this point.

It was the toughest test of their All-Ireland credentials to date and for that, Westmeath deserve credit. Longford and Kildare trailed the Dubs by 12 and 13 points respectively at half-time; Tom Cribbin’s tactics, diligently applied by his players, ensured that Westmeath were within four points at the break, 0-8 to 0-4.

But when you’re good, you’re good and Dublin have a nose for blood and a killer instinct that very few others can match. They reeled off 2-1 in the blink of an eye after the restart and, just like that, the gap had grown from four laced with possibility to an insurmountable 11.

Paul Flynn wheeled away from Paul Greville and fisted the ball to the back post where Brogan held off the attention of his marker to palm the ball past Darren Quinn.

Play had hardly restarted when McCaffrey burst through on goal and finished with the composure that is rapidly becoming his calling card.

Jack McCaffrey celebrates scoring his side's second goal McCaffrey celebrates Dublin's second goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The nerves that were beginning to roll down off Hill 16 quickly dissipated, and the game soon fizzled out — in fact, there were only four scores in the final 28 minutes of play. Dublin set their sights on an All-Ireland quarter-final; Westmeath began to plan for a Round 4 qualifier and their own shot at a place in the last eight.

Much of the pre-match analysis focused on Westmeath’s approach, and their first-half tactics were a masterclass in how to rein in the Dubs. With 13 men behind the ball, a sea of maroon met every attack, but this was no mere numbers game.

Westmeath were clever in their attempts to shut down the attacking channels and in the face of the pressure, Dublin’s typically slick attacking lost some of its sheen. It was 28 minutes before Diarmuid Connolly pointed — the first of their forwards to score from play.

The attacking machine that was so irresistible against both Longford and Kildare began to falter with nobody immune from the unforced errors. Bernard Brogan allowed a simple kick pass to bounce off his chest and harmlessly away. Paul Flynn handpassed the ball straight into touch as well as kicking a few cheap wides, while Dean Rock and Ciaran Kilkenny were wasteful at times as well.

Bernard Brogan celebrates with the trophy Bernard Brogan presents the Delaney Cup to the Hill. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Often it was the direct route that proved most fruitful for Dublin and on two separate occasions, Michael Darragh Macauley and Kilkenny powered their way up the middle through Westmeath tackles before pointing.

With a bit more composure Westmeath could have, and should have, been even closer at half-time. John Heslin and Shane Dempsey were isolated inside for long spells of the first half and when play did break into Dublin territory, they were limited to pot shots from distance under pressure.

It was hardly surprising, then, to see them drop at least half a dozen shots short into Stephen Cluxton’s grateful grasp in that first half. They were held scoreless for 24 minutes between two Heslin frees, the opening score of the game in the second minute and another in the 26th.

Cribbin pushed Kieran Martin into the edge of the square and when he finally found himself one-on-one against Cian O’Sullivan, he made it count. There were shades of the torrid afternoon he gave Donal Keogan here a fortnight ago as he twisted one way and then the other to point and cut the gap to three again.

Kilkenny kicked his second of the half to send the Dubs into the break four to the good, 0-8 to 0-4.

And when the game restarted, they put their opponents to sword. Connolly kicked a delicious pair of points off the outside of his right boot, bookending the two Dublin goals with a sole point from Martin the only Westmeath riposte.

Not even the purists could find much entertainment in a lifeless final quarter, though Dublin did save two of their finest scores for last. Connolly arrowed a magnificent cross-field ball straight on to the chest of Kilkenny, who gladly knocked over his third of the afternoon while Bernard Brogan showed remarkable awareness to point over his shoulder after he lost balance.

Scorers for Dublin: Bernard Brogan 1-1, Jack McCaffrey 1-0, Ciaran Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly 0-3 each, Dean Rock 0-2 (2f), Philip McMahon, James McCarthy, Michael Darragh Macauley, Alan Brogan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Westmeath: John Heslin 0-3 (2f), Kieran Martin 0-2, Francis Boyle 0-1.


1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnell’s)

2. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
3. Rory O’Carroll (Kilmacud Crokes)
4. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)

5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)
7. Jack McCaffrey (Clontarf)

8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. Michael Darragh Macauley (Ballyboden St Enda’s)

10. Paul Flynn (Fingallians)
11. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)
12. Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s)

13. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)
14. Kevin McManamon (St Jude’s)
15. Bernard Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh)


23. Michael Fitzsimons for Cooper (HT)
17. Paddy Andrews for McManamon (47)
18. Denis Bastick for Macauley (51)
20. Alan Brogan for Rock (55)
26. John Small for McMahon (61)
19. Tomás Brady for Connolly (65)


1. Darren Quinn (Tyrrellspass)

2. Killian Daly (Mullingar Shamrocks)
3. Kevin Maguire (Caulry)
4. John Gilligan (Ballymore)

5. Paddy Holloway (Castledaly)
6. Kieran Martin (Maryland)
7. James Dolan (Garrycastle)

8. Denis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks)
17. Frank Boyle (Killucan)

10. Ger Egan (Tyrrellspass, capt.)
11. Paul Sharry (St Loman’s)
12. Ray Connellan (Athlone)

24. David Lynch (St. Malachy’s)
14. John Heslin (St Loman’s)
15. Shane Dempsey (St Loman’s)


23. Paul Greville for J Connellan (HT)
20. Ciarain Galvin for Dempsey (HT)
25. Callum McCormack for R Connellan (52)
21. Denis Glennon for Holloway (53)
18. John Egan for Heslin (62)
22. Jamie Gonoud for McCormack (64)

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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