Monday 18 December 2017

Eugene McGee: Westmeath set-up plays straight into Dubs' hands

James Dolan finds himself isolated and surrounded by Dublin players Philip McMahon, Diarmuid Connolly, and Michael Fitzsimons
James Dolan finds himself isolated and surrounded by Dublin players Philip McMahon, Diarmuid Connolly, and Michael Fitzsimons
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

Nobody outside Westmeath people expected their county to win the Leinster title so there cannot be too much disappointment at the final result in Croke Park yesterday.

Indeed, they played better than most other Leinster teams have fared against Dublin in recent years and of course if they win one more game in the Qualifiers they could be into the quarter-final of the All Ireland championship.

But what the players and supporters will regret were the simple things they did wrong that had they done them properly would have caused a lot more worries for Dublin and their followers.

Take, for instance, the number of lazy attempts at scoring points that Westmeath had yesterday.

I counted over a dozen in total including about eight when the game was delicately balanced and only a few points in the difference.

How costly that proved and how different things might have developed even if they had only converted half of those chances.

Another fundamental error that proved costly for the losers was the manner in which they set up their stall in the first half with 13 players in the Dublin half of the field and only two left in the Westmeath forward line.

Now, defensive tactics may be useful when confronted with a superior forward line like Dublin's but while all that defending is going on who exactly is going to get scores for Westmeath?

They went 25 minutes in the first half without any score and only managed two in the entire second half.

In the first half their usually best player John Heslin was left stranded in no-man's land somewhere in the middle third of the field where his well-proven attacking skills were useless simply because he was hardly ever in a position where he was near enough to the goalposts to even attempt a score.

Packed defences usually only work when the team doing the packing is banking on winning the game by something like 11-10 or 14-13 and that was never going to work against this Dublin who have massive scoring power. Westmeath played too cagey and paid the penalty.

That having being said Dublin themselves once again seemed to struggle against a packed backline and, amazingly, the first Dublin forward to get a score from play was Diarmuid Connolly in the 29th minute.

That is hardly Sam Maguire-winning quality and no doubt other counties will be taking note of that particular statistic. Of course the firepower in this Dublin attack if always there even if it is temporarily dormant and the way they scored two goals and two points in four minutes, 38th to 41st, proved that.

But overall this was not vintage Dublin. And maybe the ridiculously easy wins they have been getting in Leinster is a major cause of that.

The killer instinct was largely absent but how could it be otherwise after wins of 27, 19 and 13 points in past few weeks.

In a five-minute spell in the second half four different Dublin forwards hit bad wides and obviously that will not be good enough from here in.

There was little or no self-belief in the Westmeath attack throughout this game but how could there be when there was no proper attacking formation from the very start and their meagre final scoreline of six points, just four from open play, proves that point.

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