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5 talking points ahead of Dublin v Westmeath in the Leinster football final

Dubs skinny odds, ‘Bear’ dilemma for Westmeath, and more to discuss before Sunday’s showdown.

Kevin McManamon and Dublin won't give up the Delaney Cup without a fight.
Kevin McManamon and Dublin won't give up the Delaney Cup without a fight.
Image: Dáire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

1. Are any team ever a 1/500 shot?

The word “unbackable” gets tossed around quite a bit, but in this case the 1/500 odds on a Dublin win justifies its use. A tenner bet would return winnings of just two cents; a cool €500 will net you the price of a Mars bar.

It’s a market designed to attract attention more so than punters’ hard-earned cash. After blowing past Longford and Kildare by a combined 46 points, the Dubs are justifiably short-priced favourites, but any presumption that they will rack up a winning margin to rival their 23-point win over Wexford in 2011 does Westmeath a disservice.

Sunday might well turn out to be another comfortable stroll in the park but Tom Cribbin’s side have earned the right to be here — and that’s more than nine other Leinster counties can say.

2. Can Westmeath play their own game?

“We’ve gone out and we’ve put big scores on the board. We’d be stupid if we didn’t try and do that again.”

Westmeath captain Ger Egan was in bullish form when he met the media last week, and he vowed that the Lake County would not be cowed by their all-conquering opponents.

Denis Corroon and Ger Egan celebrate after the game Ger Egan celebrates with Denis Corroon after beating Westmeath. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It would be naive for Westmeath to go man-to-man and slug it out for 70 minutes and still expect to be the last man standing, and you can expect Tom Cribbin to come to Croke Park armed with a much more nuanced plan that that.

A humiliation would do Westmeath no good ahead of a Round 4 qualifier where they would have every chance of winning a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Maybe Longford’s approach is best — they stuck to their own gameplan against Dublin and although they took a beating, the experience has stood them in good stead for their qualifier run.

3. 26 into 15 doesn’t go for the Dubs

With no disrespect to the efforts put up by Longford or Kildare, Dublin have been competing against themselves in Leinster so far this summer.

Jim Gavin already had a star-studded panel at his disposal and he has strengthened it again. Ciaran Kilkenny is back and looking better than ever, Dean Rock has established himself as a first-choice forward, while John Small and Brian Fenton are among the others who have seized their chance.

The danger for Westmeath is that every Dublin player is out to prove a point. Gavin has shown himself to be ruthless when it comes to picking his starting XV, and every one of his players knows that if they let their chance slip, they might be waiting a while for the next one.

Ciaran Kilkenny with Kevin Murnaghan Ciaran Kilkenny has kicked on again following his cruciate injury. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Can Dublin’s forwards get even better?

Kevin McManamon sounded an ominous note last week when he warned that this Dublin side are a long way from complete performances.

“Maybe we could have had a bit more cohesion up front,” he elaborated. “I would have felt it could have been better – especially personally.”

That’s coming off the back of a performance which saw the Dubs put up 5-18, taking their championship tally to a jaw-dropping 9-43 in just two games.

Just how much more cohesion are Dublin capable of? McManamon’s words may have been a modest platitude, or they may have been another reminder of the high standards of excellence this group sets for themselves.

Either way, Westmeath should be concerned.

5. Where should Kieran Martin start?

One of the enduring memories from Westmeath’s historic semi-final win was the sight of Kieran Martin, wearing number six, causing havoc for the Meath defence.

The big centre-back scored 1-1 in the first half but with Westmeath still trailing by eight, Tom Cribbin sent him into the heart of the attack after the break. Martin powered his way into some great positions, scored another 1-2, and the rest as they say is history.

Kieran Martin scores a goal Kieran Martin terrorised the Meath defence. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

How Cribbin uses the Maryland clubman will speak volumes about his tactical approach. Martin would be a handful for any defender but you can’t imagine that he would get the same kind of return off Rory O’Carroll.

Helping to shackle Dublin’s free-scoring forwards might be a more valuable use of his talents.

‘We’re a long way from complete performances’ – Dubs have bad news for the rest of the country

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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