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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 6 May 2021
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On the road again…

We’ve been in the thick of inter-county football championship action for what seems like some time now, but All-Ireland champions Dublin enter the 2020 arena for the first time this evening.

The Sky Blues open their six-in-a-row bid against Westmeath at Portlaoise’s O’Moore Park, with a Leinster SFC semi-final spot up for grabs.

Throw-in is 6.15pm and the game is live on Sky Sports Mix. We’ll keep you right up to date here, with our reporter Kevin O’Brien also on the ground in Portlaoise.

A look at the teams, first off — barring any late changes, of course.

Dessie Farrell hands a senior championship debut to Cian Murphy at corner back, an All-Ireland U21 winner under the manager in 2017. Paddy Small and Robbie McDaid also start after impressing with club and county over the past few months.

Two changes to the side that beat Galway last time out — Jonny Cooper and Niall Scully both start, while Eoin Murchan and Niall Scully drop to the bench.

Westmeath have an exciting team out themselves, Luke Loughlin and John Heslin looking to cause problems for the Dubs inside with Ray Connellan and Sam Duncan starting in midfield.

Dublin

1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells)

2. Cian Murphy (Thomas Davis)
3. David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
4. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala)

5. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
7. Robbie McDaid (Ballyboden St Endas)

8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)

10. Eric Lowndes (St Peregrines)
11. Ciarán Kilkenny (Castleknock)
12. Niall Scully (Templeogue Synge Street)

13. Paddy Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
14. Con O’Callaghan (Cuala)
15. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)Westmeath

Westmeath

1. Jason Daly (St Loman’s)

2. Jack Smith (Skerries Harpes)
3. Kevin Maguire (Caulry)
4. Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)

5. Jamie Gonoud (Tyrrellspass)
6. Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
7. James Dolan (Garrycastle)

8. Ray Connellan (Athlone)
9. Sam Duncan (Milltownpass)

10. David Lynch (St Malachy’s)
11. Ronan O’Toole (St Loman’s)
12. Killian Daly (Mullingar Shamrocks)

13. Luke Loughlin (The Downs)
14. John Heslin (St Loman’s)
15. Kieran Martin (Maryland).

And just like that, we have three late changes from Dublin. No surprises there.

We have news filtering in from The42‘s Kevin O’Brien that Cian Murphy will have to wait for that championship debut as Eoin Murchan starts. Meanwhile, Tom Lahiff replaces Davy Byrne in the starting line-up and Sean Bugler comes in for Eric Lowndes.

Worth noting that it’s Lahiff’s championship debut.

jack-cooney Westmeath manager Jack Cooney. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ray-connellan One of the Midlanders' stars, Ray Connellan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

john-heslin And another in John Heslin. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

And here’s Dessie Farrell, Stephen Cluxton and Brian Fenton arriving…

dessie-farrell Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

stephen-cluxton Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

brian-fenton Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

We’re less than five minutes away from the ball being thrown in at O’Moore Park. Most eyes across the country will be on Dublin as the Dessie Farrell Era well and truly takes flight in the white-hot heat of championship action. Can they drive on, first with a 10th Leinster crown in-a-row and then that coveted sixth All-Ireland title on the bounce?

It’s certainly not all about the Dubs though, and Westmeath will be hoping they can conjure up a massive shock and knock them out.

How do you see this one faring out?

Dublin 0-0 Westmeath 0-0

Throw-in: Monaghan referee Martin McNally gets us underway in Portlaoise.

Dublin 0-0 Westmeath 0-0

2 – The sides are settling in here, Tom Lahiff went up for the throw-in with Brian Fenton, who seemed to be holding his back early on. John Heslin has drifted well out for Westmeath, who are playing very defensively — as expected.

Dublin 0-1 Westmeath 0-0

3- Dean Rock with the first score of the game.

Dublin 0-2 Westmeath 0-0

4 – Ciarán Kilkenny doubles Dublin’s lead. Fenton had a go originally and it came off the post, and Kilkenny was there to finish the job.

Dublin 0-3 Westmeath 0-0

4 – Three scores in 90 seconds for the Dubs, Sean Bugler with the point after linking up with Con O’Callaghan.

Dublin 0-4 Westmeath 0-0

5 – Rock with his first free, and second point of the game, after a foul on his Ballymun clubmate John Small.

Dublin 0-4 Westmeath 0-1

7 – Westmeath get off the mark after an excellent free kick from the boot of Heslin.

Dublin 0-4 Westmeath 0-2

8 – And there’s another, this one from Luke Loughlin from play.

Dublin 0-5 Westmeath 0-2

10 – Kilkenny kicks Dublin into a three-point lead once again. Nice score, that.

Dublin 0-6 Westmeath 0-2

Eoin Murchan gets in on the scoring act, and Dessie Farrell will feel his side are motoring nicely. Westmeath fairly stood off the 2019 All-Ireland final goalscorer there, something you really can’t do.

Dublin 0-6 Westmeath 0-2

14 – Westmeath have settled in a little more over the past few minutes, Jack Smith making some nice runs up the field. It’s gotten a little feisty too, Johnny Cooper and Heslin coming face-to-face after Heslin pushed Cooper to field a high ball in.

Dublin 0-7 Westmeath 0-2

15 – A lovely effort off the left from Paddy Small to open his account, and we’re in for the water break.

Dublin 0-9 Westmeath 0-2

17 – Apologies, we’re having a few technical issues here with some liveblog updates somehow ending up on TheJournal‘s Joe Biden liveblog, but I think we’re back on track here!

Dublin certainly are well on track, their latest score a Rock free with Niall Scully previously punishing a poor kickout.

Dublin 0-9 Westmeath 0-3

19 – Ronan O’Toole with an impressive point for Jack Cooney’s men.

Dublin 0-10 Westmeath 0-3

20 – Dessie Farrell’s side hit double figures at the other end, Johnny Cooper popping up with a rare, but wonderful, score. That’s seven different scorers for the Dubs, two of those members of the full-back line tonight in Cooper and Murchan.

Dublin 0-10 Westmeath 0-4

21 - Kieran Martin with the first score from an advanced mark. Westmeath aren’t going badly at all here, they’re putting it up to the Dubs.

Dublin 0-10 Westmeath 0-5

23 – Heslin with a free from close range. A good response from Westmeath.

Dublin 0-11 Westmeath 0-5

24 – Con O’Callaghan adds his name to the Dublin scorers list after some good work from Paddy Small in the build-up.

Dublin 0-12 Westmeath 0-5

26 – Rock tags on another free after O’Callaghan was fouled. The Cuala man caused the Westmeath defence serious trouble there as they struggled to stay with his pace and the goal could have been on if he wasn’t challenged.

Dublin 0-13 Westmeath 0-5

28 – Bugler with his second of the night. One area for improvement for Westmeath is the kickout, they’re all landing in or around Fenton, and we all know what happens then…

Dublin 0-13 Westmeath 0-5

30 – The half-hour mark arrives in Portlaoise and Dublin have kicked just their second wide of the match, Paddy Small with the narrow miss. The Ballymun man is flying though, playing with incredible confidence.

Dublin 0-14 Westmeath 0-5

32 – Kilkenny raises his third white flag of the night, a really brilliant individual score in the end.

That comes just after Westmeath’s first wide of the game, a decent effort from Sam Duncan all the same.

Dublin 0-15 Westmeath 0-5

33 – Rock nails another free after Small was fouled on the attack. 15 points as half time approaches is a fairly pleasing return for Dessie Farrell.

Dublin 0-15 Westmeath 0-5

35 – One minute added on, as Westmeath enjoy a nice spell of possession and hope to add another score to reduce the deficit.

Dublin 0-15 Westmeath 0-6

46 – Ray Connellan grabs that sought-after point, one of the scores of the night here. And that’s a positive note for Westmeath to go in on at the break.

Some thoughts from our man on the ground:

There’s no doubt about it, Dublin are firmly in control in Portlaoise. In every aspect. Jim McGuinness, Kieran Donaghy and Peter Canavan have been excellently analysing the half, focusing on how much Westmeath’s kick out has hampered them.

Donaghy urges the Midlanders to “go out swinging” and give it all for what’s likely their last half of football for 2020. “They have to have a real go for it,” Canavan adds.

Dublin 0-15 Westmeath 0-6

35 – Martin McNally gets us going again as the rain thuds down at O’Moore Park.

Dublin 0-15 Westmeath 0-6

36 – O’Callaghan with the first shot of the half and it goes well wayward, he looks disappointed with that one. Westmeath are going at Dublin a bit more. 

Dublin 0-16 Westmeath 0-6

40 – The opening score of the second half goes Dublin’s way, and it’s Robbie McDaid who slots over.

Dublin 0-17 Westmeath 0-6

42 – James McCarthy becomes Dublin’s 10th different scorer tonight, finishing off a nice team move.

Dublin 0-17 Westmeath 0-7

43 – Heslin hits back at the other end with an impressive effort. Westmeath’s latest offering comes after good work from Boidu Sayeh and Ronan O’Toole in the build-up.

Dublin 0-17 Westmeath 0-8

45 – Westmeath captain Kieran Martin grabs his second score of the night, again after great work from the lively O’Toole – he’s been brilliant for Westmeath.

That comes after Cooper backed himself to bag another point, kicking the ball quite the height. It hangs in the air and between the worsening conditions and the bright lights, Westmeath ‘keeper Jason Daly opts to punch it out.

Dublin 0-18 Westmeath 0-8

47 – Kilkenny fires over another for the Dubs after a powerful run in on goal. The Castleknock man has been excellent tonight.

Dessie Farrell makes his first change of the night. Brian Howard comes in for Bugler in the 49th minute, while Conor Slevin is set to come in for Killian Daly on the other side.

Dublin 0-19 Westmeath 0-8

50 – Paddy Small adds another to his, and Dublin’s, tally just before the second water break.

With 46 minutes gone, Jim McGuinness calculated that Dublin were hitting a score every two-and-a-half minutes. Some stat.

Dublin 0-19 Westmeath 0-8

51 – That score was Small’s last contribution of the night, as Cormac Costello comes in from the Dublin bench on the restart. Callum McCormack replaces David Lynch, and Heslin’s latest free veers to the right and wide as the rain pelts down.

Dublin 0-20 Westmeath 0-9

53 – Dublin hit 20 points through Dean Rock’s latest free. Lorcan Dolan, who just came on for Kieran Martin, scores an inspiring point with his first involvement while David Byrne comes in for Mick Fitzsimons.

Dublin 0-20 Westmeath 0-9

55 – The first major threat on goal from Dublin there, but Westmeath keeper Daly denies Dean Rock as the Ballymun man looks to palm home.

Dublin 0-20 Westmeath 0-10

60 – Just before we hit the hour-mark, Jack Smith adds another well-taken Westmeath score. A nod must go to Ronan Wallace for his work in the build up.

A change a piece now: Aaron Byrne comes in for Niall Scully, and Anthony McGivney replaces Luke Loughlin.

Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-10

63 – A Rock free and another huge Kilkenny score from play to push Dublin 12 ahead.

That free came after Kilkenny was the victim of a high challenge from Ray Connellan. The Westmeath midfielder saw yellow for the foul and Kilkenny headed for treatment on the sideline. Straight after coming back on, he hits his fifth point of the night.

A worrying sight for Dessie Farrell there as Eoin Murchan hobbles off with the help of two backroom team members. Not ideal…

Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-10

65 – Eric Lowndes, who had been named to start, replaces the injured Eoin Murchan. As the clock runs down, there’s nothing major to report…

Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-11

67 – Another excellent score from distance from Connellan, his second of the night. Comes after another impressive contribution from Sayeh.

Another change from Westmeath – teenager Brandon Kelly replaces Ronan O’Toole. A rising talent, one to watch in the coming years. Just 18 and making his debut against the five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.

Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-11

70 – Three minutes added on.

Dublin 0-22 Westmeath 0-11

72 – Howard drops one in around the house as Dublin look to finish off with a goal but Westmeath deal with the delivery accordingly. They go in hunt of a last score of their own.

0-7 to 0-5 in the second half, they’re making it on Sky. A good fightback from Westmeath.

Some closing thoughts from Kev in Portlaoise, you can read more in his match report shortly:

So that’s that. Dublin are up and running and the six-in-a-row bid is well and truly underway after an 11-point win over Westmeath. Ciarán Kilkenny’s performance was one of the highlights, his 0-5 haul helping the Dubs lay down a marker, while Johnny Cooper was excellent too.

Next up for Dessie Farrell’s men is the Leinster semi-final, where they’ll meet either Laois or Longford. That’s the end of the road for Westmeath in 2020, though they can exit with their heads held high and take plenty of positives from tonight.

That’s all from me, but there’s lots more to read on The42, starting with Kevin O’Brien’s match report:

A successful open to the defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland crowns all in all, and an enjoyable game of football in tough conditions. Thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your weekend. 

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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