Egan on song as Westmeath dispatch Clarke's young Dubs
Westmeath 1-12 Dublin 0-10
In the end, Westmeath proved just too strong. Whatever else happens this year in terms of their pursuit of history, Dublin, or at least this version of the Dubs, won't have it all their own way in the province this year.
Last night's clash in Parnell Park offered typical January fare for large parts of the 70-plus minutes in Donnycarney but when all was said and done, the midlanders deservedly secured just their fourth O'Byrne Cup title and their first since 1988.
It was a win built largely on the visitors' strong third-quarter showing and their advantage in terms of experience.
Westmeath had a bit more know-how on the night with Ger Egan proving too hot to handle on a chilly night.
Much has been made of the side that Dublin, under stand-in manager Paul Clarke, have entered in this competition in recent years.
In front of an estimated 7,000 in the north-Dublin venue, they fielded just a handful of members of their extended 2018 panel but they could still call on quality.
Several of their players on duty had won All-Irelands at underage or club level while there were two late changes to their team due to their involvement in the Sigerson Cup this week.
Clarke's side have often been referred to as the Dubs' 'C' team but it's a title that doesn't do justice to their talents.
In recent seasons, these experimental O'Byrne Cup teams have given valuable produced talents like Niall Scully and Brian Howard.
Westmeath, meanwhile, came into last night's O'Byrne Cup final in fine form. Life under Jack Cooney had started well. Last night they mixed front-liners like Kieran Martin, Egan and James Dolan with some newer faces.
They came into this game unbeaten in the competition, having scored 3-23 in their last two outings in wins over Kildare and Longford. And with considerably more experience than Dublin in their ranks, they had the better of the first half here too.
Things were slow to get going and it took seven minutes for the first score of the game, when Egan split the posts.
From there, both sides struggled for traction. The visitors held a narrow 0-3 to 0-2 lead on 25 minutes.
Egan grabbed his second point of the day on 32 minutes to restore their two-point lead and they might have struck for a goal when Noel Mulligan was put through. However, his effort was well saved by Andy Bunyan.
With time almost up in the opening half, Dublin pulled a point back when Aaron Byrne split the posts to see Westmeath take a minimum margin lead (0-5 to 0-4) in at the break.
Dublin called on two of their more experienced players on the panel in Colm Basquel and Conor McHugh at half-time but it was Westmeath who started much brighter.
Within eight second-half minutes, Egan had landed three points to put his side into a commanding 0-9 to 0-5 lead.
Dublin kept trying but Egan and Tommy McDaniel, who plays his club football with Castleknock, were in fine scoring form.
Westmeath were already five points up when Egan grabbed the game's only goal with just over 10 minutes to go.
Dublin responded with two points but never looked like scoring enough to reel in the Lake county who look in good shape ahead of their Division 3 campaign.
SCORERS - Westmeath: G Egan 1-5 (1f); T McDaniel 0-3; R O'Toole 0-2; K Martin, G Leech 0-1 each. Dublin: A Byrne, S Bugler, C McHugh (2f) 0-3 each; S Smith (f) 0-1.
Westmeath: E Carberry; R Wallace, B Sayeh, K Daly; J Dolan, N Mulligan, N O'Reilly; S Flanagan, S Duncan; G Egan, C McCormack, D Lynch; K Martin, J Halligan, R O'Toole. Subs: T McDaniel for McCormack (10), G Leech for Halligan (52), C Slevin for Flanagan (59), J Maxwell for McDaniel (70), N Culley for O'Toole (71).
Dublin: A Bunyan; N Doran, S McMahon, C Smith; A McGowan, C Mullally, R McDaid; J Hazley, C Howley; R Basquel, A Byrne, S Bugler; O Lynch, C Pearson, S Smith. Subs: C McHugh for Lynch, C Basquel for Pearson, T Lahiff for Hazley (all h-t), S Boland for R Basquel (50), D Monaghan for McGowan (55), C Diamond for Smith (59), L Flatman for Doran, L Galvin for Howley (both 65), R Hazley for Byrne (70).
REF - D Hickey (Carlow).