herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Eamon Carr: Life's a beach for the Boys in Blue

Plain sailing as Dublin clinch yet another Leinster

JACK MCCAFFREY
JACK MCCAFFREY

LIKE a chap coming up from an afternoon on the strand in Torremolinos, Jim Gavin bounced in to meet the press yesterday afternoon.

A little bit flushed, like a chap getting the start of a suntan, he seemed happy and relaxed. For all I knew, he'd spent the last half hour reading an old Elmore Leonard thriller. There'd certainly have been more suspense in it than in the last half hour of a Leinster final that had been effectively killed off by two lethal Dublin early second half strikes.

CHILLED

Jim was so chilled that I wouldn't have been surprised had Dublin back-room wingman Seamus 'Shep' McCormack appeared with a sombrero and a colourful fruit cocktail with a little blue umbrella in it.

You see, the Dubs come here every year. Well almost every year. They meet fellas from Laois ('05 and '07), Offaly ('06), Wexford ('08 and '11), Kildare ('09) neighbours Meath ('12, '13 and '14), and, this year, Westmeath.

But it's Dublin who bring home the souvenirs that count, including the Delaney Cup.

This year, they got the shopping in early. And, you could say, a gift from Tom Cribbin's men. The teams came out for the second half with Dublin four points ahead. Then, with Westmeath in siesta mode, the boys in blue struck.

Goals by Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey let the air out of the Westmeath lilo. After that, there was a lot of splashing about by the lads in maroon and white.

Despite an air of discreet euphoria, Dublin won't be taking to the sun loungers just yet.

Jim Gavin is a salty dog. He doesn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Experience tells him there could yet be heavy weather ahead.

Westmeath had attempted to throw a blanket over this match and, for 35 minutes, Dublin seemed to labour under the inconvenience.

Others will have been watching. Others more adept at throttling the swashbucking style that makes Dublin in full flight a joy to watch. But there are lads preparing to meet Dublin in Croke Park later in the season. And that's when we'll know for sure who are the true boys of summer.

Westmeath aren't known for the sort of life-draining defensive play that's been perfected by Donegal. So yesterday was a baby version of what Dublin might meet down the road.

"If we're playing a team that's nearer our own standard, it's better to play an attacking style of football which suits our team," said Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.

"Our game would be an attacking game style. We weren't going to take Dublin on like that this year."

Among the many concerns that are likely to see Gavin crunching the stats is Dublin's apparent use of what pundits might term "niggly" frees to prevent attacks from developing.

First-half yellow cards for Jonny Cooper and Michael Darragh Macauley ensured both players were replaced before further damage could be done. The cards were a problem the manager could have done without.

"Looked innocuous to me," Jim shrugged. "Maybe the replay showed differently. Referees need to get these calls right for the players' sake. I thought it was a cheap yellow card to get," he added.

Full-on physicality is admired by all who enjoy Gaelic football. Less so, what might be interpreted as a rash of cynical tripping, pulling and dragging. Might the the possibility of getting branded with such a dubious stigma impact negatively on refereeing decisions in later heated contests?

"When you look back through our National League campaign and the Championship games we've had so far, I don't think it's a trend," replied Jim cogently. "We don't want to lose that physicality. What we like too see is good disciplined tackling, which is a core foundation of ours."

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