Dubs are even tougher with key men missing
Jack Cooney reckons Westmeath's O'Byrne Cup final task is rendered all the more difficult by Dublin's decision to rest all their front-line stars in the pre-season tournament.
The All-Ireland champions advanced to Friday night's Parnell Park decider via a penalty shootout against Meath, having featured none of their SFC regulars and just a select few of last year's panel.
Stand-in boss Paul Clarke confirmed afterwards that they are set to persist with the same policy this weekend.
"It probably adds to the Dublin team," said Westmeath manager Cooney, "in that there's a number of players there who'll be very anxious to make an impression. To try and break into that, if you want to call it, the first senior squad or first senior team.
"That little bit of drive and ambition from those younger players playing on Friday night will bring a different element to the game.
"And I know you can say that there aren't many regulars on the team, which is fair enough, but I don't think it will lessen their own personal ambitions and motivations to try and break into the 'proper' panel of 30 or 35 or whatever it is that Dublin carry."
Jim Gavin has previously utilised Leinster's pre-season tournament to road-test players who duly went on to become league and championship regulars. Cooney sees this as a huge carrot for this year's O'Byrne Cup crew.
"Absolutely. And they know that," he said. "Every one of the players who are going to tog out for Dublin know that this is an opportunity for them to be noticed and to step up. You've mentioned players who have proved the O'Byrne Cup is a very successful exercise for Dublin."
Equally, the competition has been very beneficial for Cooney as he beds into the Westmeath hotseat - but he is not getting carried away at thoughts of early silverware.
"If we win it'll be great, it'll be just straight down to focus on the start of the league the following week," he said.
"If we lose, it'll be straight down to focus on the league the following week. The O'Byrne Cup has been good to us this year. We've got the maximum number of games out of it that we can get, and that's where the value is in it.
"For sure it would be brilliant - I was up at the game last weekend between Dublin and Meath, and it was great to see the pitch full at half-time, kids out kicking ball.
"And that's an opportunity for the Westmeath supporters, to bring up their kids and let them out onto Parnell Park, because we don't get an opportunity like that."