Friday 21 October 2016

Enemies collide in a race for Dublin booby prize


TO the winner the spoils - or, for those of the glass-half-empty persuasion, the booby prize of a date with the unstoppable Dubs.

Can either Laois or Kildare hope to survive for 70 minutes in the company of Jim Gavin's machine? On all the available evidence, from this and previous seasons, an emphatic 'No'.

That said, none of this should matter when old neighbouring foes collide in the Midlands. Nor will it matter ... Kildare/Laois battles, down through the years, have always meant something to the players and supporters.

During the Kieran McGeeney era, there was no mistaking who had the whip hand in this local rivalry: Kildare pulverised Laois by 2-18 to 0-9 in the 2009 Leinster SFC and by 3-16 to 0-10 in a 2011 qualifier.

Hard to see any 15-point cakewalk repeats here. Certainly not on the part of Kildare, who have endured a spring horribilis to compound a disappointing debut campaign under Jason Ryan.

Relegation to Division Three constituted a disaster for a county of such recently elevated status. Since then, matters have scarcely improved with Keith Cribbin's season-ending cruciate tear and Daniel Flynn's latest exodus - to the States.

Given all this flux, there was much interest in the make-up of Ryan's championship selection - it emerged yesterday and was notable for the absence of former All Star full-back Peter Kelly and his namesake Niall Kelly from the attack as well as Eoin Doyle and Tommy Moolick.

Selector Morgan O'Callaghan later confirmed that Peter Kelly won't be involved tonight, having run out of time in his race back from a hamstring injury. However, the other Kelly (hamstrung since the Leinster U21 final), Doyle and Moolick are all fit and available.

When these sides met in the league at the end of March, a stunning Emmet Bolton goal sealed a 1-12 to 1-9 victory for Kildare at the end of a pulsating Portlaoise derby.

This rematch could be just as close - or closer still - and yet the balance may well have tilted in Laois's favour. Notwithstanding the above defeat, their form through the second half of the league was on an upward curve. In John O'Loughlin and Brendan Quigley, they boast a ball-winning midfield duo that Kildare, on paper, will struggle to suppress. And they've the advantage of a win under their belts, albeit a less-than-taxing Carlow cakewalk.

ODDS: Laois evens Draw 15/2 Kildare 11/10


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