Newbie McMullan impresses for adopted Dubs in easy win
Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-17, Walsh Cup Round 2
Mattie Kenny is no fan of hurling in December, but at least yesterday's low-key start to 'next year' proved a pretty painless experience compared to the horrors of Portlaoise last July.
This time there was no ambush in the midlands; not even the hint of one. The only peril they faced was the potential for frostbite as Kenny's medley of established starters and Sky Blue wannabes eased to an eight-point victory at a sparsely attended TEG Cusack Park.
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This was Dublin's opening foray in the Walsh Cup, following the postponement of their rematch with Championship nemeses Laois, and their manager was content to bring just 19 players on the team bus.
"It's not really a day to be sitting on the bench," he explained.
The starting 15 included just five players who had been there for the ill-fated throw-in against Laois - Paddy Smyth, James Madden, Tom Connolly, Oisín O'Rorke and late call-up Ronan Hayes - but the real intrigue surrounded the form of some other new and not-so-new faces.
Prior to yesterday's comeback, Mark Schutte's last competitive outing for the Dublin hurlers was a qualifier defeat in Cork back in July, 2016.
He spent the next two years trying his luck with Jim Gavin's footballers, and all of his comeback campaign with the hurlers in a losing battle with injury.
Here, even if not quite the Schutte of old, his endeavour was obvious and he clipped two fine points from the wings. The return of a fit and firing Schutte is one obvious positive for Kenny in year two. Here's another: Lorcan McMullan.
The Down native has left his calling card with Kilmacud in recent seasons but this was his baptism in blue and he marked it with a buzzing first half.
Westmeath had raced from the blocks into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead; from there to the break they were run ragged, with McMullan setting the tempo from midfield. He had a hand in the only goal on 14 minutes: after O'Rorke had battled to win a ruck, McMullan made a beeline for goal before feeding Hayes, who in turn offloaded to Aidan Mellett for a low, angled finish.
McMullan chipped in with 0-3 before half-time, at which juncture Donal Burke had 0-5, four from play.
Burke opted off the panel to spend last summer in Boston, but his value has never been in doubt since he burst off the minor conveyor belt in 2017.
Dublin only mustered 0-7 in the second period even though Westmeath were a man down from the 53rd minute after Joey Boyle walked for a second yellow.
Not that it mattered. The hosts' scattergun shooting, especially from frees, meant they could never get closer than seven. Eoin Price was a metronomic exception; the midfielder nailed all seven of his shots from play.
More will be expected of Dublin, especially with the aforementioned additions, while Kenny reported no retirements yet. That includes Conal Keaney, 37 years young, who is currently focused on Ballyboden's latest All-Ireland football quest.
Scorers - Dublin: D Burke 0-8 (3f); O O'Rorke 0-5 (4f); A Mellett 1-1; L McMullan 0-3; D Keogh, M Schutte 0-2 each; A O'Neill 0-1. Westmeath: E Price 0-7; D McNicholas 0-4 (2f); D Clinton 0-3f; N Mitchell 0-2; L Varley 0-1.
Dublin - J Treacy; J Madden, P Smyth, T Connolly; P Crummey, D Gray, J Malone; D Keogh, L McMullan; F Whitely, M Schutte, D Burke; A Mellett, R Hayes, O O'Rorke. Subs: A O'Neill for O'Rorke (31), S Brennan for Treacy (ht), L Corcoran for Crummey (58), E O'Donnell for Keogh (60), Crummey for Mellett (63).
Westmeath - A McHugh; A Cox, T Doyle, A Ennis; S Clavin, A Craig, G Greville; L Varley, E Price; J Boyle, D O'Reilly, R Greville; N Mitchell, D Clinton, J Galvin. Subs: A Clarke for Clavin (25), D McNicholas for O'Reilly (ht), J Birmingham for Craig (ht), J Gilligan for Galvin (42), S McGovern for Clinton (52), C Doyle for R Greville (58), B Doyle for Varley (59).
Ref - G Quilty (Kilkenny).