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Irish Voice Sport
Dublin Barely Defeats Westmeath
July 3, 2008
Sports Digest by Cathal Dervan
DUBLIN fans were almost singing the Blues at Croke Park on Sunday as their heroes did their level best to drag defeat from the jaws of an anticipated victory over Westmeath in the Leinster SFC semifinal.
Paul Caffrey’s team did emerge victorious by a score of 0-13 to 1-8 to book their Leinster final date with surprise candidates Wexford later this month, but not without a titanic struggle from Westmeath which took most people by surprise, if not the Dublin boss.
“The Westmeath odds of 5/1 were crazy,” Caffrey told the Irish Independent afterwards. “We certainly didn’t take any notice of that because we knew just how good Westmeath are.
“I thought with seven or eight minutes to go that we were headed for a drawn game but we finished strongly. We’re delighted to have got through because there were times when it looked as if might be a case of 2004 all over again.
“Our conversion rate could have been higher. We need to move on again because 13 points wouldn’t win the Leinster final. We’ll take a cold, forensic look at today’s game over the next week and begin planning for the Wexford challenge.”
Caffrey was quick to praise Westmeath and added, “I think Westmeath are one of the success stories of ‘08 and they continue to be after today’s game. We were put to the pin of our collar to get out of that game.
Dublin will have to improve against Wexford, a point not lost on Caffrey. “Wexford have not been beaten in a competitive game this year so it’s up to us as a group to come up with a plan to counteract the fantastic brand of football they are playing,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone could but admire what they have brought to the table so far. I thought their performance here the last day was magnificent.”
Westmeath manager Tomas O Flatharta knows his team left a famous win behind them after eight second-half wides, when they chose to kick into the Hill, proved costly.
“We started both halves well but our shooting let us down,” said the Kerry native. “I was very proud of the work rate and intensity we brought to the game right through but we just didn’t take enough of our chances.
“We let Dublin back into it too quickly after opening up a four-point lead in the first half but even after that we had quite a few chances which we didn’t take.
“There’s still a lot that this team can do however — we’ve got to get on with it and regroup for the qualifiers. I am very proud of the way they played for each other.
Dublin defender Colin Moran faces an anxious wait on the disciplinary front after RTE television highlighted a high challenge on Westmeath’s Dermot Bannon that was met with a yellow and not a red card by referee Padraig Hughes.
The Central Competi-tions Control Committee have the right to use video evidence to re-examine the high tackle and could hit Moran with a four week ban.
Meanwhile, the GAA have defended the decision to delay the start of Sunday’s game by 17 minutes to avoid last minute congestion at the turnstiles.
A GAA statement on Monday read, “The GAA wish to point out that the decision to delay the throw-in time to the game between Dublin and Westmeath at Croke Park yesterday was taken in consultation with An Garda Síochána (police) due to health and safety concerns, as only a fraction of the anticipated attendance were in the stadium 20 minutes before the scheduled throw-in time of 2 p.m.
“In such circumstances, the GAA, while reluctant to delay starting times, recognize that the health and safety of patrons attending its games is of paramount importance and the decision to delay the throw in time was taken on this basis.”
O Se Training
KERRY midfielder Darragh O Se is back in training and expected to be fit for the Munster final clash with Cork on Sunday as he recovers from a leg injury picked up in the semifinal win over Clare.
Killian Young is also expected to return for the Kingdom at the expense of Tommy Griffin, while Kerry will definitely be without the injured Declan O’Sullivan and the suspended Paul Galvin.
Captain Galvin has lost his latest appeal against the six month suspension imposed for lashing referee Paddy Russell’s notebook out of his hand when he was sent off in the Clare game, but will delay any further appeal until after Sunday’s game.
The Central Appeals Committee upheld the six month ban late last week, but Galvin can now take his case to the Disputes Resolution Authority.
The Kerry County Board issued a statement after the latest ruling and said, “Coiste Chiarraí and Kerry senior team management express disappointment that Paul Galvin’s appeal in relation to his excessive suspension was turned down at the Central Appeals Committee meeting in Croke Park.
“However, it is now the wish of Paul Galvin that the county’s full focus will be on the Munster minor and senior football finals on Sunday, 6th July in Cork. The rules of the association allow Paul to take his case to a hearing of the DRA and this option may yet be considered.”
Cork stepped up their preparations for the Kerry game with a win over Galway in a challenge game last Thursday night when Diarmuid Duggan came through unscathed after his recent injury scare.
Anthony Lynch and Alan O’Connor are still injury worries for the Rebels, however.
McConville to Quit
ARMAGH striker Oisin McConville, who helped his team to a 1-12 to 0-11 victory over Down in a disappointing Ulster SFC clash in Newry on Sunday, has confirmed he will retire at the end of the current season after winning six provincial titles and one All-Ireland.
Armagh were well worth their win over Down despite the early second half dismissal of Martin O’Rourke for a second yellow card offense.
“Sometimes when you go to 14 men it sparks a reaction in people,” boss Peter McDonnell said afterwards. “Down went in at halftime having got to grips with midfield and it took us a few moments to settle on the structure once we went down to 14.
“But it seemed to motivate the players to work that wee bit harder. We could easily have capitulated there. Everything was going in Down’s favor. They demonstrated this year that they were good at coming back and that they could go to the end.
A poor start to the team cost Down, who eventually lost by four points. Coach Ross Carr admitted, “Every time we got into a position to where we could put a few scores back-to-back we turned over possession far too easily from our half-forward, half back and midfield lines.
“Against a team as good and experienced as Armagh that was going to be fatal. The trouble was done in the first 20 minutes.”
ANTRIM boss Terence McNaughton has again pleaded with the GAA to allow his side to move to the Leinster championship after they were handed a 1-10 to 6-21 drubbing by Galway in Belfast on Saturday.
“I just cannot understand it. We work as hard as any other team in preparation,” said McNaughton. “We had former Armagh manager Joe Kernan here on Thursday and the training we were doing was the same as took Armagh to All-Ireland football success.
“I have said it in the past — and got stick for saying it — but I still believe we will never progress until we are included in the Leinster championship.
“That is not saying we are better than anyone else in Ulster, but we need to be playing against higher opposition to learn. It was the same when I was playing. Galway have had three challenge games against Cork. For us, any challenge game against the top teams means an overnight stop.”
WEXFORD ‘keeper Damien Fitzhenry is a major doubt for the Leinster final clash with Kilkenny on Sunday after injured his foot playing for his club side Duffry Rangers last weekend.
Wexford manager John Meyler explained, “It’s quite tender and sore. While he’s okay to walk, it’s when he puts pressure on the foot or come into contact that it could cause problems. We just have to wait and see.”
Ciaran Kenny (broken thumb), Stephen Nolan (thumb ligaments) and M.J. Furlong (broken fibia) are already ruled out.
Kilkenny have injury problems as well, with midfielder Michael Fennelly also ruled out after he broke a wrist in a club game for Ballyhale Shamrocks. Derek Lyng is in line to replace Fennelly.
CROKE Park have confirmed the fixtures for the first round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers when the big game will feature Ulster rivals Monaghan and Derry.
Louth get the chance to avenge their 2006 replay defeat to Ulster giants Tyrone, while other games of note feature Donegal against Roscommon and Limerick at home to Meath.
The games will all be played on Saturday, July 19 as follows — Monaghan vs. Derry at Clones, 3 p.m.; Tipperary vs. Westmeath at Ardfinnan, 3 p.m.; Donegal vs. Roscommon at Ballybofey, 5 p.m.; Kildare vs. Cavan at Newbridge, 7 p.m.; Limerick vs. Meath at Gaelic Grounds, 7 p.m.; Longford vs. Laois at Pearse Park, 7 p.m.; Louth vs. Tyrone at Drogheda, 7 p.m.; Offaly vs. Down at Tullamore, 7 p.m.
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