Dubs brush off weak Westmeath challenge
Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-9
Dublin’s awesome attacking power blew Westmeath away at Croke Park as Jim Gavin’s side cruised into a Leinster SFC semi-final clash with Kildare.
When one considers that Diarmuid Connolly could have had a hat-trick and failed to hit the net even once, the challenge for Kieran McGeeney is to find a way to defuse an explosive offensive unit that blasted the Westmeath defence to shreds.
Their 16 points winning margin was in no way flattering, and would have been more had Diarmuid Connolly taken just one of his three goal-scoring opportunities.
Competition for places in the Dublin forward division is more intense than ever, following the introduction of Cormac Costello for a first taste of championship football and another spectacular cameo contribution from Dean Rock.
Nine different Dublin players scored, and while questions remain over the defensive solidity of a side that has embraced the attacking philosophy of new boss Gavin, this Dublin outfit will take some beating.
Yes, Westmeath’s hopes of causing an upset were dealt a save blow before a ball was kicked, when a hamstring injury ruled ace attacker Dessie Dolan out of the game.
But even the presence of Dolan would not have swung the game in favour of Pat Flanagan’s side, who were in trouble in all the key areas throughout the evening.
It was soon clear that the gulf in class reached much deeper than the absence of one key player.
The Dubs cut swathes through the Lake County’s defence throughout the opening quarter, and could have had a goal early on, only for the heroics of ‘keeper Gary Connaughton, who saved brilliantly from debutant Paul Mannion, after Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan had combined in a tidy build-up.
Before long, Jim Gavin’s talented attackers had the scoreboard ticking nicely, with Brogan and Andrews swinging over early scores.
With a little composure, Brogan should have had a couple more, but the Hill was in fine voice as Paul Flynn and Andrews split the posts, and young Mannion nailed his first ever championship point.
Michael Darragh Macauley was the midfield powerhouse that Dublin supporters have grown to know and love, and with James McCarthy and Jack McCarthy raiding along the flanks from deep, there was little that even the excellent Kieran Gavin and Paul Sharry could do about the waves of blue that engulfed their defence.
Nevertheless, Westmeath managed to turn the game around after Denis Glennon had kicked their opening point in the 24th minute.
John Heslin steered three frees between the posts to cut the deficit in half, but the Dubs were soon back in control, and they scored the last four points of the half to re-impose their authority.
Brogan brought his tally to four, Andrews claimed his third, and Jim Gavin’s men went in at the break with a 0-12 to 0-4 advantage.
Westmeath pulled back three points, two of them from Heslin frees, in the opening six minutes of the second half, but they were soon on the back foot again, and were let off the hook when Connolly failed to hit the target from two goal chances.
First he had a shot saved off the line by Mark McCallon, and when he was sent through on the end of a surging run from Macauley, he drilled a low shot wide at the far post.
Glennon, the only Westmeath attacker to carry a genuine threat, fired over a point on 50 minutes, but there was to be no dramatic swing, and Brogan and Flynn and Connolly added further scores at the other end.
Dublin allowed themselves the luxury of a third goal miss, again from Connolly, who shot wide again after being sent in by substitute Cormac Costello.
Dean Rock tapped over a free, and it was his incisive pass that sent Andrews in to blast home a brilliant 69th minute goal.
Dublin: S Cluxton, D Daly, R O’Carroll, J Cooper, J McCarthy, G Brenna, J McCaffrey (0-1), MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan (0-1), P Flynn (0-3), C Kilkenny (0-1), D Connolly (0-3), P Mannion (0-1), P Andrews (1-3), B Brogan (0-7, 5f).
Subs: K O’Brien for Daly, N Devereux for McCarthy, D Rock (0-2, 1f) for Mannion, D Bastic for Macauley, C Costello for Brogan.
Westmeath: G Connaughton, M McCallon, K Gavin, K Maguire, D Harte, P Sharry, J Gaffey, D Duffy, J Heslin (0-5, 5f), K Martin (0-1), C McCormack, J Dolan, G Egan, D Glennon (0-2), C Curley
Subs: Damian Dolan for Curley, D Daly for Duffy, D Corroon (0-1)for J Dolan, P Bannon for Egan, A Purcell for McCallon
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).