Greville rains on the Dubs fashion parade
SURELY a fashion first on a GAA pitch at a wet and windy St Loman's Park in Mullingar for this deferred O'Byrne Cup first round match.
Dublin midfielder Michael Darragh Macauley, an All Star nominee in 2010, joined the action for the second half wearing a Carlos Tevez-esque black 'snood' to give his neck and chin some protection from the elements that prevailed. Complete with black tights, it gave Macauley quite a distinctive look.
But despite Macauley's sharp appearance and best efforts to ignite a weakened Dublin team, it was the home side that prevailed -- thanks to an injury-time free from Paul Greville after defender Simon Quinn had been brought down.
It was a somewhat dubious decision by Longford referee Fergal Kelly, but perhaps a humane one too. There was little point in keeping the 1,000 or so supporters who braved the night any longer.
For Westmeath it is perhaps their first meaningful victory -- the championship successes over Wicklow aside -- since 2008.
They started last season slowly, but on this evidence manager Pat Flanagan, who was only appointed after a disappointing league campaign, has clearly injected grit and determination into the Lake County. They led for most of the game and had a 0-10 to 1-1 interval advantage, which they looked like preserving for most of the second half.
But a late Dublin rally saw young Padraig Lee from St Vincent's pop up to equalise and put the wind assisted Dubs into a strong position to advance -- before Kelly and Greville's late, late intervention.
It was an extremely difficult night for football. Dublin's 11th minute goal was as timely as it was necessary and produced arguably the best passage of play.
Dean Kelly's delivery into the wind had Eoghan O'Gara turning to give chase and as the ball held up he was forced to meet it on his chest off balance.
But he got it under control and his power immediately created an opening that Dublin had to take full advantage of.
Kevin McManamon was on his shoulder to receive and, despite being held up by Westmeath's replacement goalkeeper Darren Quinn, he checked back inside to coolly slot the opening goal and establish a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.
In the conditions that prevailed and the wind that gusted down the field, Dublin needed everything they could get and so it transpired.
For the next 24 minutes they didn't land another score as Westmeath piled on the pressure.
Superbly orchestrated by a fit looking Denis Glennon from centre forward, they reeled off eight unanswered points and succeeded in dispossessing some of the more cumbersome Dublin footballers time and again. The conditions affected everyone, and no one more so than the Dubs' Mossie Quinn, who failed to land three first-half frees and badly scuffed his last attempt when he might have expected to do better.
Two more second-half efforts failed to hit the target.
Dublin, for whom 'Footballer of the year' Bernard Brogan was given the night off, were driven on throughout by Ger Brennan and Paul Casey, their most experienced defenders, and McManamon always looked like a player who could potentially bring his game up another level this season. Full-back Sean Murray can also be satisfied.
Glennon cropped up late in the game to clear Macauley's touch on a Cluxton '45' off the line. For that kind of determination, they deserved to shade it.
Scorers -- Westmeath: D Glennon 0-5 (0-5f), P Greville 0-4 (0-1f), A Giles, J Connellan, B Murtagh 0-1 each. Dublin: K McManamon 1-2, T Quinn 0-3 (0-2f), D Lally, P Lee, D Bastick 0-1 each.
Westmeath -- D Quinn; K Maguire, R English, G Quinn; M Curley, A Finnan, C Jordan; B Murtagh, N Kilcoyne; A Giles, Denis Glennon, G Egan; P Greville, P Tormey, J Connellan. Subs: F Boyle for G Quinn (ht), S Quinn for Giles ((43), J Dolan for Curley (54), P Sharry for Kilcoyne (59), David Glennon for Connellan (63).
Dublin -- S Cluxton; C McKiernan, S Murray, D Nelson; P Casey, G Brennan, D Daly; C Murray, D Bastick; A Hubbard, T Quinn, K Bonner; D Kelly, E O'Gara, K McManamon. Subs: D Lally for Hubbard (29), M D Macauley for C Murray (ht), P Lee for McKiernan (ht), G Cullen for Bonner (49), Bonner for Kelly (63).
Ref -- Fergal Kelly (Longford)