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Monday 24 July 2017

Royals lacking personnel to turn the game

SFC Qualifier: Meath v Donegal (Páirc Tailteann, Today, 6.0)

Paddy McBrearty can be a matchwinner for Donegal. Pic: Sportsfile
Paddy McBrearty can be a matchwinner for Donegal. Pic: Sportsfile

Going on the evidence of last week, Andy McEntee's solution to Meath's problems is the most commonly reached-for in these types of situations.

Having seen his defence ransacked by Kildare twice this year, Meath took preventative measures against Sligo.

So preventative, in fact, that in the second half, when they played with a gale in Páirc Tailteann, they stuffed 13 men inside their own half and conceded all but the last few of Sligo's kick-outs.

It brought a safety net but the team played without a real comfort or belief in what they were doing.

Penetrative

Routinely, Graham Reilly began those penetrative runs from the edge of his own square.

And were it not for the arrival of the soothingly accurate Mickey Newman, who kicked two calming frees just after Donal Lenihan had missed a brace, with Sligo running out of puff, Meath might have fallen in front of their own people.

As it was, James Toner's clearance off the Meath line in injury time that put the Royals into their fourth game of this year's Championship, the first time they have played more than three since 2011.

It is unlikely that McEntee will reboot the team in any significant way, particularly given the vulnerability of their opposition. Like McEntee, Rory Gallagher has had to redress his seasonal aims and his team's style in reaction to a damning provincial loss.

Like Meath, Donegal looked brittle and parched of any confidence in beating Longford last week in Ballybofey.

All of which means we're not expecting a whole pile of scores but we are certain of tension.

Which team can squeeze more scores out it?

Meath don't have a Paddy McBrearty or a Michael Murphy.

And Donegal should be more comfortable with the terms of engagement.

ODDS: Meath 7/4, Draw 15/2, Donegal 8/13

VERDICT: Donegal

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