A lot has been made of the complete non-event that was the Leinster semi-final between Dublin and Westmeath, but one thing I can’t agree with is the notion that the match was of no benefit to the Boys in Blue.
Players constantly receive criticism for talking up lesser opposition, but the reality is that top teams really do take every game seriously. They’ll be thinking about getting the match wrapped up early and moving on to the next assignment as soon as the ball is thrown in.
Matches like this allow managers to try out fringe players, who’ll be under immense pressure to perform. If you’re looking to break into a team like Dublin’s, you have to be firing on all cylinders when you get your chance.
If you don’t step up, you’ll soon be taken off and could find yourself warming the bench for the remainder of the Championship. You need to show hunger and lay down a huge marker, no matter what’s written on the scoreboard.
Dishing out a hammering can be hugely helpful for forwards. Paul Mannion scored eight points from play against the Lake County, which is unheard of in the modern game.
Say what you like about the quality of the opposition, but he’ll have walked off the pitch feeling 10-feet high and will feed off that confidence going into the next game.
I remember playing New York back in ‘04 and racking up something like 1-10 or 1-11. Granted they weren’t world beaters, however I’d done what I was put on the pitch to do and went into the next game with my tail up.
Scoring matters so much to forwards and when you find yourself in a contest where everything’s going right and with plenty of space to be found, you don’t want it to end. In fact, you actually savour it.
Play all the O’Byrne Cup and National League games you want, but there’s nothing better than walking off the pitch after a Championship game with a sack-full of points.
The Dubs also used the opportunity to try a few different things, such as long balls into Eoghan O’Gara on the square. It paid off for his goal; don’t be surprised if to see it later in the Championship.
Gavin and his side clearly didn’t take Westmeath lightly and, no matter what anyone tells you, they’ll have taken a lot from that game.