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Published: 12:09 | 16/7/16

Bealin expects defensive Westmeath

Former Westmeath manager Paul Bealin expects the Lake County "to park 14 men behind the ball" in Sunday's Leinster SFC final against Dublin.

Westmeath impressed in last season's Leinster final against Jim Gavin's side, holding their own for 40 minutes before being undone by two quick goals and finally going down by 2-13 to 0-6.

Bealin, who won the All-Ireland with Dublin as a player in 1995, does not believe that Westmeath boss Tom Cribbin will risk playing anything but a defensive game at Croke Park, despite coming up against a Dublin side that conceded two goals in a match for the first time in five Leinster championships in the quarter-final against Laois.

"They’ll park 14 behind the ball, absolutely, I have no doubt about that," Bealin told the Irish Examiner.

"It won’t be a great spectacle but I don’t blame them. If you take Dublin on toe-to-toe they’ll destroy you. So that space will be limited for Dublin and it won’t be pretty to watch. If you’re Tom Cribbin, you don’t care how you win. He’ll get guys behind the ball and the important thing then is getting scores down at the other end when the chances are there.

"Kieran Martin in a one-on-one situation is very dangerous and Dublin have shown they’re a little vulnerable under that diagonal high ball in, particularly against Laois. So Westmeath will try to exploit that. But primarily they’ll be playing a defensive game."

Bealin, who didn't win a Championship match in his season in charge of the midlanders in 2014, says Dublin have the patience to prevail against even the most resolute of opposition defences.

"There’s very few teams in Ireland capable of playing that way against them. Westmeath certainly if they set up that way will be destroyed," he continued.

"I’m not saying they’ll beat Dublin playing defensively. The one big thing I’ve noticed about Dublin is they don’t get frustrated against blanket defences. They’re patient and they’re prepared to wait for the right man coming off the shoulder to break through and kick a score.

"People get frustrated with that and all the lateral passing back and forth across the pitch but there’s not much more they can do. So they’re comfortable doing that but I still feel it is the way Westmeath will set up."

Gavin has made two changes to the side that started the semi-final win over Meath, with Eric Lowndes starting at wing back in place of James McCarthy, while Michael Darragh Macauley keep his place in midfield after coming on for Denis Bastick against Meath.

Diarmuid Connolly switches from wing forward to full forward with Kevin McManamon now on the '40', while Ciaran Kilkenny moves to the wing.

Dublin (SF v Westmeath): Stephen Cluxton (captain); Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, David Byrne; Eric Lowndes, Cian O'Sullivan, John Small; Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh Macauley; Paul Flynn, Kevin McManamon, Ciaran Kilkenny; Dean Rock, Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan.

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