Tough Dubs annihilate Westmeath

Dublin are still the form team in the country in terms of results, but Saturday night’s facile win over Westmeath at Croke Park on their Leinster Championship bow for the season told them little or nothing about their current standing or their prospects for the summer ahead.

It even prompted the opposition manager Pat Flanagan to call for a radical overhaul of the championship to ensure that Dublin meet their match in future years and his team are spared the ignominy of a Croker drubbing.

The history books will record that Dublin beat the Lakes County by a whopping 1-22 to 0-9, but the reality on the day was even worse for Westmeath as the Dubs raced into a 0-8 to no score lead after 22 minutes and led 0-12 to 0-4 at halftime.

With Paddy Andrews and Paul Flynn particularly impressive, they added a second half goal from Andrews to seven Bernard Brogan points to secure the 16 point victory in front of 33,008 spectators.

Kildare are next up for the Dubs, and for youngster Jonny Cooper, there is work to be done before the semi final next month.

The 2010 All-Ireland under-21 star insisted after the Westmeath win, “It went okay. Obviously we can improve in certain areas. I suppose the winning margin in the end was a positive thing.

 “Westmeath were coming in with a Championship game under their belts and it was always going to be tough, the way they play the game.”

Boss Jim Gavin had particular praise for man of the match Andrews. 

“Paddy is a quality player, always was. I had him at underage as well and he was always a talented player,” Gavin said.

“He is working very hard at his game and he knows as well as any of the Dublin players they are only as good as his last game. He has been very diligent so far and I’m sure he will continue to do that.”

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton said he was not surprised with the win. 

“We performed throughout the League so, I mean, it’s a game at the end of the day,” he said.

“Championship or league it is still a game you want to win and you prepare exactly the same so you shouldn’t have any difference in the outcome.”

Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan believes the gulf between the tops sides like Dublin and the rest is now alarming. 

“We were just blown away by the sheer power, speed and strength of Dublin. Some of the scores they kicked were excellent as well. It’s totally an eye opener for us,” he said.

“Personally I’m really getting worried about the gulf that’s starting to develop. There seems to be a huge gulf developing between Division 1 and 2 teams.

“Or further down the line we saw last week Kerry and Cork. We played Carlow a couple weeks ago and I saw the dejection on the faces of the Carlow boys and I see it there in with us now.

“Maybe we should start revisiting how the championship is run. Had we won that game against Dublin, we’d have had to play Kildare in the next game and so on.

“Maybe we should start having a look at maybe two championships running simultaneously together. You need to get players competing or otherwise they’re going to go away.

Flanagan at least has some answers to put forward as to how the likes of Westmeath can find a more level playing field.

“I’d develop a second meaningful championship. We go into qualifiers now and let’s be totally honest, the pressure is going to be on players to go back to clubs, the pressure is going to be on players to go to America,” Flanagan said.

“We need a meaningful competition that’s going to give these guys an opportunity to progress. They deserve better.”

Big Hurling Win for Clare 

The glory days may still be some time away, but Clare hurling fans finally got something to shout about in Thurles on Sunday as their team sent Waterford crashing out of the Munster Championship – their first win in the competition in five years.

Limerick, beaten in 2008 by the Banner, were the last side to go down to the Clare men in the provincial championship so the turnaround in fortunes was worth celebrating for manager Davy Fitzgerald and his players after their 2-20 to 0 1-15 win at Semple Stadium.

Young full-forward Darach Honan scored three points from play as Clare cruised into a semifinal meeting with Cork, and he took great delight in the manner of victory and the experience.

“It’s actually my first time getting a win in the Munster Championship. That meant a lot to us. A lot of the other lads on the team have been playing for two or three years and it’s our first time getting a win,” Honan said.

A resilient second half performance saw Clare turn a four point halftime deficit into a 12 point win, mainly thanks to hunger and work-rate according to Honan.

“I think we started winning our own puck-outs. It was more desire and aggression to win the puck-outs and get the breaks. That was the only thing that was lacking in the first half,” Honan said.

Legendary boss and All-Ireland winner Fitzgerald felt his Clare team proved they are the real deal on Sunday.

Fitzgerald said, “This is a good bunch. It might not be this year but it will come for them. They are the real deal.  They will work very hard and they’re as honest as they come.”

Down Shows Tough Streak

Down showed great heart and huge commitment to come from five points behind and beat Derry by 2-17 to 1-15 in their Ulster Championship quarterfinal on Sunday according to their manager James McCartan.

He said, “Well obviously the second half was all very positive, in contrast to the first half. For the second period of the first half we were beaten out the gate.

“We were very porous and letting Derry score for fun and we tried to correct that at halftime. The fact that we kept them to five points in the second half gave us a chance of victory.

“We were not implementing the sweeper system the way we wanted to so we tried to tweak it and see how we would get on and, thank goodness, the balls dried up.

“We were four points down at the break and then they scored the first in the second so we were five down. To then win by five is a ten-point turnaround which shows a bit of character which is great.”

All-Ireland champions Donegal are next up for Down in the Ulster semifinal, as McCartan well knows.

He added, “Donegal don’t need me to build them up. It’s the All-Ireland champions going in against what people might consider a dangerous enough side on their day. If we can get it right than we can maybe mount a challenge.

“If we played Donegal ten times they would probably win nine. And maybe I’m being generous to ourselves.”

Kingdom Cruises to Easy Win

Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice was happy with his team’s emphatic 4-21 to 1-4 win over Waterford in the Munster SFC on Saturday night, less happy that selectors Mikey Sheehy and Diarmuid Murphy were forced to watch the game from the stands.

New guidelines mean only five officials can join the substitutes in the dug-out, and Sheehy and Murphy were again left out in the cold despite claims that GAA President Liam O’Neill had given his clearance for the pair to be there.

Fitzmaurice said, “We sought clarification before the game and were told that the Munster Council were seeking guidance from headquarters.

“Despite what Liam O’Neill said in the paper on Saturday, we didn’t seem to have the clearance for the two lads so we had Plan B ready. Otherwise it was another cold war on the sideline.

“I’d prefer to have my selectors on the sideline. There’s more subtlety to a conversation than through a dugout and over a wire. If Mikey Sheehy wants to say something to me it’s through Diarmuid Murphy to Cian O’Neill to me. That’s hardly right.”

Kildare Makes Leinster Semis

Johnny Doyle proved that age is no barrier to greatness with a six point haul as Kildare eased their way into the Leinster semifinals with a 0-19 to 1-12 win over Offaly at Croke Park on Saturday night.

Provincial champions Dublin are next up for the Lilywhites, and their former midfielder Dermot Earley believes Doyle is playing well enough right now to really worry Jim Gavin’s team.

“Johnny hasn’t missed a championship match for his club and county since 2000 and I think that’s an unbelievable stat; that he’s still able to keep going,” Earley told RTE.

“You saw two brilliant scores, one for the right with the right foot and 45 yards out and another from the left. He is still an unbelievable talent.”

Action from the Dublin vs. Westmeath match on Saturday.Sportsfile