Sunday 22 April 2018

Billy Keane: Here's hoping Lakemen make fools of bookies

Páidí Ó Sé shakes hands with Mick O'Dwyer after Westmeath's victory over Laois in the 2004 Leinster Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park DAVID MAHER / SPORTSFILE
Páidí Ó Sé shakes hands with Mick O'Dwyer after Westmeath's victory over Laois in the 2004 Leinster Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park DAVID MAHER / SPORTSFILE
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

So the bookmakers have Dublin at 1/500. For those of you who have never served the long and expensive gambler's apprenticeship, 1/500 means you have to put on €500 to win just the one euro.

Even the Greeks wouldn't take such a risk. Don't even think about it. There's a lot to be said for work as a safe method. The bookies seldom get it wrong.

Am I the only one? The only one who gives Westmeath even a chance of getting within a few points of Dublin?

Am I firing snowballs in hell? Will Dublin win by half the track and could it be that a county famous for beef to heel will end up as lambs to the slaughter?

Sorry about the treble cliché but the treble cliché is to sports writers what the treble somersault is to the circus.


Westmeath played 30 minutes of sublime football against Meath. They came from 10 points down to win by five. Granted, Meath had tired by then. But Westmeath looked very fit and fast. You need to be fit and fast to live with the Dubs.

We also took a look at Dublin in Croke Park last time out. Just to check up if the hype masked reality.

Dublin were frighteningly good, but one of the Kildare defenders lost his man for nearly two minutes. You can't afford to lose your man for two seconds against Dublin.

The Kildare player need never apply for a job as a PI following cheating spouses. Stay with your man even if he strays. Sounds like a line from a country song.

Which reminds me of the great Joe Dolan anthem 'I'm in love with the girl with the whitewashed navel'.

Or that's what I thought it was when I was but a small boy. The gable was whitewashed not the navel. So will this be a whitewash?

The Dublin players come on to passes at speed and the movement in attack is as impossible to plot as a bouncy ball in a pin-ball machine.

Dublin move the ball at pace and they move the ball forward. The northern lateral game of pass the parcel seems to be going out of fashion. Fast ball is back. At last.

Dublin might be vulnerable to the high ball in defence or fast low ball.

It's nearly impossible nowadays to play in the full-back line. Back a few years ago, us corner-forwards were life's victims.

But now I'm told the umpires are fed before the game to take their minds off the 72-ounce steak so the spotting has improved dramatically.

The corner-forward is a protected species, even if it is too late for some us - the old-style corner back would have given Colin McGregor a terrible hiding if the ring was a telephone box.

Most of the scoring is done by the inside men. Westmeath must play a sweeper with a wide yard-brush.

Then there's tactics. Westmeath must unsettle the Dubs from the very beginning. The one advantage Westmeath do have is that winning will mean more to them than Dublin.

Páidí Ó Sé managed Westmeath to their one and only Leinster title.

Páidí would rise the dander in a taxidermist's dog. But he could plan too.

"What did you think of your man?" I asked. Your man scored three points from wing-back but the player he was supposed to be marking kicked 1-3.

"I'll tell you what I think of him," replied PO. "If he was wearing slip-ons, he'd be trying to tie his laces."

The message is clear. Do your job. You are part of a chain and if one link is broken, the whole team fails.

Tom Cribbin, the present Westmeath manager, gambled in the spring when he criticised his players, but now he's in a Leinster final.

Tom must get his men to go at Dublin from the start. Half the teams Dublin play are beaten on the night the draw is made. Fear not.

But just now I get to thinking back to the Kildare-Dublin game. Dublin could go 10 up against Kerry or Donegal or Cork in 10 minutes.

Unless Tom Cribbin has his boys thinking, the game will be over before it rightly gets going.

Here's hoping. The Westmeath supporters are such genuinely decent GAA people with a massive love of the game. Westmeath have put a sustained effort in to under-age football. All of Ireland will be wishing them well and more than that.

There's glory there if your county men produce a performance of note. We can ask no more of any team.

And by the end of the day wouldn't it be just fine, if the bookies were to say, "we weren't fair to Westmeath. They played great"?

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