For 40 minutes Westmeath quietly dreamed during Sunday’s Croke Park Leinster final, but then reality struck as Dublin pounced. The real damage was done when Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey rattled goals.
Only trailing by 0-8 to 0-4 at the interval, Westmeath had been organised, resilient, and honest throughout a first half in which Dublin were frustrated. Five minutes after the restart, though, Brogan palmed an opportunistic major and when McCaffrey added an immediate second Westmeath were in severe trouble.
Westmeath will reflect on a passionate performance even though they were soundly beaten by Dublin, who claimed a 10th Leinster title in 11 years. That stunning rate of success confirms just how enterprising and efficient Dublin have been in the province, but Westmeath will hope to make an impact in the All-Ireland series.
A round 4A qualifier with Fermanagh will reveal exactly how much progress Westmeath have made this year under the shrewd guidance of Tom Cribbin, who steered the Midlanders to fine summer wins over Louth, Wexford, and Meath.
It was always going to be a significant struggle adding Dublin to the list, but the early signs were encouraging for Westmeath, who battled admirably from the first whistle. Dublin’s conversion rate in attack wasn’t as slick as usual which meant that Westmeath were very much in the contest in the opening period.
John Heslin steered over a free in the second minute for the underdogs, but Dublin responded, reeling five points off without reply. Despite several misses, Dublin still kicked some nice scores from distance with Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, and Michael Darragh Macauley contributing handsomely.
Westmeath were courageous and committed as half-time approached and Cribbin’s team were content departing just four points behind. When the action recommenced a Westmeath lapse in concentration was brutally punished as Dublin netted two rapid goals.
Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Flynn were involved in the creation of Brogan’s palmed effort. Suddenly hope was draining from Westmeath and Dublin struck again as McCaffrey drilled home a delightful goal for Jim Gavin’s charges.
Cribbin made a string of changes - both personnel and positional - but the Midlanders were unable to seriously test Dublin, who were now firmly in control. In the remaining 29 minutes, Westmeath mustered two points as a dominant Dublin outfit easily closed out the game.
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, P McMahon (0-1 ); J McCarthy (0-1 ), C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey (1-0 ); B Fenton, MD Macauley (0-1 ); P Flynn, C Kilkenny (0-3 ), D Connolly (0-3 ); D Rock (0-2, 2fs ), K McManamon, B Brogan (1-1 ).
Subs: M Fitzsimons for Cooper, P Andrews for McManamon, D Bastick for Macauley, A Brogan (0-1 ) for Rock, J Small for McMahon, T Brady for Connolly.
Westmeath: D Quinn; K Daly, K Maguire, J Gilligan; P Holloway, K Martin (0-2 ), J Dolan; D Corroon, F Boyle (0-1 ); G Egan, P Sharry, R Connellan; D Lynch, J Heslin (0-3, 2fs ), S Dempsey.
Subs: K Gavin for Dempsey, C McCormack for Connellan, D Glennon for Holloway, J Egan for Heslin, J Gonoud for McCormack.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan ).