This Sunday sees the Leinster Football Final taking place in Croke Park. 1/100 is the price on Dublin to win what would be six in a row and eleven titles in twelve years. Do Westmeath have any chance at all?
Unfortunately, this looks like a formality. A lot of pundits are taking the Division 1 v Division 3 side , who will play in Division 4 next year, stance. This automatically points to a big mismatch. This is the awesome Dubs who have endless scoring power and look to have the ability to open teams up for fun, even if it might not happen until the last 20 minutes or so.
Westmeath have played two games in the Leinster championship so far. They beat Offaly by a single point; 0-13 to 0-12. They went on to beat Kildare. Again it was a one point win and it was another low scoring affair; 1-12 to 1-11. When compared to Dublin’s scoring tallies so far; 2-21 and 0-21, it really does seem hard to make a case for Westmeath.
The approach Westmeath take to the game will say a lot about what type of spectacle will unfold. Will they try and contain the Dubs and hope that somehow they can keep their score down? It is a task that has proved impossible for other teams so far.
In last year’s Leinster final they took that approach and it did not work. They contained them for a while but the defensive set up totally took away their scoring power. Westmeath only registered 0-6. They held to Dublin to 2-13, a score that some would find respectable. But attack and defence are part of the game and both must perform to beat any team, never mind Dublin.
The one thing that Westmeath have is scoring power. They have three capable forwards in John Heslin, Kieran Martin and Paul Sharry. These are three men who really know where the posts are. Sharry is excellent from long range while Martin and Heslin have demonstrated the ability to finish in many ways.
If Dublin are complacent, Westmeath defend well and these three can fill up the onion bags, there is a very slim chance, but not a big one.
The Dubs do not seem to suffer from complacency. Jim Gavin has a lot of advantages in his position as Dublin manager but he has assembled a group of motivated players who appear to appreciate everything they have. They all look motivated to play for Dublin and they celebrate every single victory, showing that it means a lot to them.
They never look complacent. They are a talented bunch of footballers, but they really have a culture in place where everyone is in it together and looks determined to build a legacy. So seeing Dublin ‘caught on the hop’ is something they never looks like happening, they need to beaten by a better team and it is hard to see anyone better at the moment, particularly not Westmeath.
So if Westmeath are to win, they have to attack. The containment game does not work against Dublin. They have enough practice at it at this stage and they know how to break down mass defences.
To have any hope, Westmeath must simply tackle their hearts out at the back and attack with purpose. Heslin, Martin and Sharry need to kick over five points each.
They kicked 3-19 against Meath in 2015. A similar score will be needed to get close to Dublin. Unfortunately, we just cannot see it happening.