Dublin v Westmeath
Sunday, June 25th. 4:00pm
Croke Park, Dublin.

Winning 36 of their last 38 games in Leinster since 2005 is a statistic not to be ignored, and tomorrow could very well make it 37 for the current reigning provincial champions.

The gap really doesn’t seem to be closing between Dublin, who are the epitome of class and consistency, and the chasing pack. But Westmeath’s consistency has earned them a Leinster final place for the past two years on the bounce.

The Lake County have seen off the Meaths and Kildares in this time to fully earn their spot. And manager Tom Cribbin will again have his side ready for whatever tomorrow might bring.

“We have to come to Croke Park with a game plan that will be effective in halting the Dublin juggernaut.” he told GAA.ie.

“We have to be at our best to beat Dublin and, armed with an effective game plan in hand, to give us the best possible chance.”

For the past six year, Dublin have been playing a level above most teams and have only encountered a few road blocks along the way. And the team is again evolving with new young players moving up the ranks.

Carlow were their first opponents in this year’s competition, and while they were competitive on the day, Dublin had that signature finish to put the game out of their reach and advance.

Westmeath locked horns with Offaly, but needed a replay to get to tomorrow’s game, with their second performance much stronger than the first. But manager Tom Cribbin knows they will need a lot more to even go toe to toe.

“This year, we have to travel up to Croke Park with something different.”

“There’s no use saying I want a good performance from the players on Sunday. That won’t cut it.”

It’s of no surprise that Dublin are getting very used to the majority of their oppositions setting up defensively in championship games against them, but equally it’s given Jim Gavin and his panel time to deal with that style of play, and it’s taught them patience above all as a counteracting tactic. Something Dublin legend Bernard Brogan can acknowledge.

“There are so many different aspects of the game now.” Brogan commented recently.

“To try and get that space for a shot you have to be able to get your shot off really quickly, but the whole style of the full-forward line has changed now.”

“Every time you get a ball, if you beat one man another man comes at you and another man. So you have to break the gainline, you have to change the angle of your runs, you have your cuts through the middle.”

Earlier today Jim Gavin released his panel and chose Paddy Andrews as the man to replace suspended Diarmuid Connolly in the Dublin attack. And with that being the only change, it affords Niall Scully and Con O’Callaghan another opportunity to impress their manager.

Westmeath have developed a quite pacy style and will bring their ever developing side to Croke Park tomorrow. And there is massive potential in this side with players like Paul Sharry, Ger Egan, Kieran Martin, and of course talisman John Heslin now firmly bedded in as inter county stars.

It’s the third championship meeting of these two sides in three years. Dublin will be hoping they stay on track for their seventh provincial title in succession. Westmeath will want to make their third final in succession and attempt to add only their second Leinster title to their history books. Dublin though have the upper hand even before a ball is thrown in.

DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Michael Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper, Eric Lowndes; Niall Scully, Cian O’Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Ciaran Kilkenny, Paddy Andrews, Paul Mannion; Kevin McManamon, Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock.

WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Jamie Gonoud, Kevin Maguire, Killian Daly; Mark McCallon, Frank Boyle, James Dolan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Callum McCormack, Paul Sharry, Kieran Martin; Tommy McDaniel, John Heslin, Denis Glennon.