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Saturday 3 December 2016

Dubs are a Rolls Royce in need of a test: Carr

... and West' can't wallow in one big scalp

Bernard Brogan
Bernard Brogan
John and Ray Connellan celebrate victory over Meath

A LEINSTER football final that everyone expected - Dublin entering as unbackable favourites. A Leinster final that no one expected - Westmeath as the defiant underdog.

Here, according to Tom Carr, is what Dublin need to show on Sunday week: "If Westmeath do make it competitive, we need to see how ruthless they can be and how they can punish mistakes that Westmeath make, and how quickly they can bury the game," he says. "The question mark over every Dublin team that goes out is, when the pressure comes on, what's their reaction?"

And here's what Westmeath must do: "They need to push on ... not stand still and say 'That's it, great year, we've beaten Meath, let's go on the tear' type of thing. That day is gone. The whole idea is to build upon that and, for me, building on that for Westmeath is to be seriously, seriously competitive - and in the game with 20 minutes to go.

2015-06-30_spo_10773809_I2.JPG
John and Ray Connellan celebrate victory over Meath

"Fine, they mightn't end up winning but there is no reason in the world why a Westmeath team can't be in the game with 20 minutes to go. If they're not it's a mental thing, not a physical thing."

Few men are better placed than Carr to assess the contrasting Leinster final claims of our two protagonists on July 12. He has both skippered and managed Dublin ... but, for the past 13 years, he has lived in Westmeath and is a former manager of their county minor team.

Carr agrees that looking at Sunday's semi-finals was akin to watching two different Leinster championships. That is because while Dublin are "exceptionally good", their traditional rivals - Kildare and Meath - have hit reverse.

For that reason, he is reserving judgement on whether Jim Gavin's marauders have moved on from last summer's shock implosion to Donegal.

"When you talk about individuals, Diarmuid Connolly is Rolls Royce. In terms of his effectiveness and usefulness to a team, I'd put him alongside Michael Murphy of Donegal," Carr outlines. "Bernard Brogan, (Kevin) McManamon, all these guys are top of their game, they're Rolls Royce players - when they're allowed to be. It's how you curtail them and how you mark them and then you just see how your Rolls Royce performs."

He has yet to see anything to suggest that Dublin will definitely whip Kerry or Donegal by seven or eight points - "and that is the big danger for Dublin, because no team yet has asked them the question, or even gone close."

But has Gavin changed the structure of his team?

READ MORE: 'Dublin have no real rivals in Leinster'

"Yes there are efforts to change that, but you're changing it with the same players who are, basically, naturally-attacking players. The likes of (James) McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey and these fellas.

"It's not that they can't be changed, but it's hard. And the reason why Dublin were caught out at the back so much last year is because they were all attacking, and that was the nature of their game and they were encouraged to do that - which is fine, that's not a problem.

"But when you put those individuals into the heat of battle, their natural tendency will be to attack."

Thus, it will boil down to whether Dublin retain their discipline and stick to the plan "when the temperature is raised". It happened to Meath on Sunday and "their whole football world fell apart".

Which, finally, brings us back to Westmeath's stunning recovery to floor the Royals. Carr reflects on how GAA folk are "conditioned to tradition" and such notions that "Westmeath can't beat Meath blah blah blah". Yet his minor team did just that in a Leinster semi-final two years ago. Now the seniors have repeated the trick and "the county was ecstatic".

What irked Westmeath folk, historically, was that they seemed "mentally weaker" than Meath. "They've had opportunities before to beat Meath but just hadn't, let's call it, the balls to do it. And on Sunday they had ... they had two or three players who seized the opportunity."

OUTSTANDING

Specifically Kieran Martin and John Heslin.

"They were outstanding," he says, before harking back to a previous assertion of his about star men in weaker counties. Heslin, he says, is "lauded as a great player, and he is potentially a great player. But last year he took no responsibility for any of his performances, and I'm saying that straight up because I know the guy has it."

His opinion may rankle with some in Westmeath but, in Carr's view, Sunday was "the first time he took responsibility in a Westmeath shirt. Kieran Martin has always been doing that; he's one of their stalwarts anyway."

Against Meath, finally, Westmeath "manned up" when it mattered. Now they must do it all over again.

LEINSTER SFC FINAL

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