Dessie Farrell finally takes charge of his first Championship match on Saturday evening, but the preparations have been far from ideal.
It has been a difficult first year at the helm for the Na Fianna man. The disrupted season will have impacted upon Farrell’s plans, since he succeeded Jim Gavin, for sure.
It is unclear if Farrell has had ample time to work on different playing styles or tweaking things as he sees fit. There may be the odd set-play that he will look to incorporate, but if he tries to make wholesale tactical changes in such a short space of time, it could unravel for him.
So I don’t expect to see drastic changes in the way Dublin play. This group has developed so many good habits in recent years. Given the short lead-in time, they should rely on that.
Trying to fill Jim Gavin’s shoes is no easy feat. How do you surpass the achievements of the previous manager?
Farrell has earned his shot, and taking over the capital’s senior footballers was always something he was going to do. He has his own way of doing things, he’s his own man.
But on Saturday evening, we are going to see whether if it is a continuation of Gavin’s style, or if Farrell is going to implement his own brand of football.
The championship is going to come thick and fast, game after game. So you don’t have weeks at your disposal to work on systems. He’ll want to hit the ground running.
What is going to be different under Dessie Farrell rather than under Jim Gavin? We don’t know the answer to that. We’ll get a glimpse against Westmeath.
It may not be until 2021 that we see some real change.
But I still expect, no matter what way Dessie lines out his team, Dublin are going to win against Westmeath.
The gap remains in Leinster
The Dubs will be gearing towards an All-Ireland semi-final against the Ulster champions.
They have reached the All-Ireland series without breaking sweat in recent years. Despite the change in format, this year is likely to be no different, only in a shorter space of time.
In fairness, I don’t think they will disrespect Meath. Despite the fact Andy McEntee’s side got relegated from Division 1, they competed with everybody in the top tier. Nobody brushed them aside.
Nonetheless, Dublin are the team to beat in the Leinster province, and they will be looking to peak for the All-Ireland series.
Westmeath have nothing to lose
Jack Cooney’s side retained their Division 2 status since the restart, and will be going into this game feeling they have nothing to lose.
The game is live on TV. Westmeath don’t always get this kind of exposure.
They will look to their great rivals Meath as a benchmark. The Royals pushed Dublin hard in Parnell Park last month, and if Westmeath were playing Meath on Saturday in the Leinster Championship, they would be going out to win.
Just because it’s Dublin, they have to try and forget they are up against one of the best teams in the country, have a go at them.
They do have personnel who can do damage; John Heslin would make any team in the country. On his day, he is capable of kicking 0-8 or 0-9.
We saw the weather on a wet and windy day in Ballybofey last weekend. Poor conditions can be a leveller. For the favourites, it means there can be a more level playing field.
Westmeath will be telling themselves that on any given day, if they play to their full potential, they are capable of giving Dublin a game.
That’s the objective – be competitive. They are realistic enough to know that it would take something remarkable for them to win it.
They have to have one of those days where everything goes right.
Watch Westmeath vs Dublin live on Sky Sports Mix on Saturday from 5:45pm.
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