There is no shame in losing and certainly no shame in losing to a team of the calibre of the current Dublin side. Yet it was the manner of the defeat and the fact that Jim Gavin’s side sauntered to a 16 point win without having to leave the comfort of third gear that has left a bad taste to this Leinster quarter-final mismatch. Dublin are exceptionally strong at present and will undoubtedly have a big say in the destination of Sam McGuire this September but there is no taking away from the fact that this was a very poor Westmeath performance.
0-8 to no score down after 24 minutes the game was over before it got started. Losing Dessie Dolan before the start was a blow but even if he was fully fit and five years younger it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to the outcome. It may not have taken as long for us to open our account and he would surely have converted five or six points but the truth of the matter is that all over the field we were losing the individual battles. We simply had no answer to Dublin’s power and speed.
We afforded Dublin far too much space and regardless of their urban roots, Gavin’s men know how to make hay when the sun shines. Of course we didn’t help our own cause by slowing things down coming out of defence while up front we lacked the penetration and accuracy needed at this level.
Let’s be honest; despite all of our optimism leading into the game the writing was on the wall well in advance of this. We were more than a little fortunate to scrape over Longford and to draw with Galway in the league and both fared woefully in championship. Galway were hammered by Mayo while Longford were beaten by Wicklow, hardly a good omen for our chances.
And yet there was always hope that a spirited performance might at least see us ask serious questions of the Metropolitans but that never materialised.
Pat Flanagan, speaking since the game, has mentioned the growing gulf between the top four or five teams in the country and the rest. Every weekend there is more evidence to back that theory up. On the evidence of this result there is a lot of work to be done before next spring or we could be in for a humiliating league campaign.
The immediate concern is that all of the players stick around and avoid the temptation to travel Stateside. A good run in the qualifiers would be important in restoring confidence in the squad and in getting the right gameplan to take us to the next level.