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Saturday 3 December 2016

Road to Dublin redemption to begin with Laois

LAOIS v DUBLIN

(Portlaoise, Tonight, 7.0)

GIVEN the alternatives, this wasn't such a bad draw for Dublin.

Certainly, the avoidance of a trip to Ennis or Limerick or Cork was paramount to their chances of salvaging something from a season that has threatened only to serve as a microcosm for a team as prone to brilliance as they are to disaster.

Laois will present their own problems, though.

Against Galway, they started with three men in their full-back line, a sweeper and another player man marking Joe Canning.

Whether 'Cheddar' Plunkett affords Dublin so much respect or not, they won't be easy to break down and it's worth noting that until Johnny Coen's long ball hopped into the Laois net, the O'Moore men did a much better job of stifling Galway's inside three than Dublin.

And where Galway really made hay was in their ability to a) adapt to the Laois defence and b) score from long range.

Certainly, the return of Liam Rushe to the Dublin defence should plug some of their leaks and in the past, he has generated confidence for those around him with those high catches.

But in Tommy Fitzgerald, Paddy Purcell, Willie Hyland and Cha Dwyer, Laois have forwards more dangerous darting on to ball than standing underneath it.

Laois should play the wings and attempt to break Dublin down in a less direct fashion than Galway did.

In Zane Keenan, too, they have a forward capable of almost anything.

Conal Keaney should add some ball- winning acumen to the Dublin attack vacated by Rushe's inevitable move to the half-back line and even if Peter Kelly misses out, a fit Paul Schutte and Cian O'Callaghan are custom built for the sort of pacey threat Laois pose.

One of Dublin's problems this year is the inconsistency of their attack.

Dotsy O'Callaghan, Paul Ryan and David Treacy have all - in patches - been excellent and anonymous but it's also incumbent upon Danny Sutcliffe and Ryan O'Dwyer to score from further out when the chance inevitably presents itself.

Pace around the middle is vital too, and don't be surprised if Cian Boland is rewarded for his sprightly cameo against Galway and Man of the Match performance in the Under 21s loss to Kilkenny with a more sustained involvement here.

smart

Darragh O'Connell looked smart in that regard early on in his starting debut, though he faded like almost everyone else in blue that day. It's imperative that Ger Cunningham locates that energy around the middle last seen before Niall McMorrow suffered his injury.

How quickly and how securely Dublin have healed from the Galway defeat should dictate what sort of evening they have here against an improvide side.

In terms of experience, they've been down this lonely road before with largely the same players and if their attitude is right and they hit the front, it could be that they pull off a performance and a win here that convinces themselves - more importantly than anyone else - that they possess the right minerals to turns a pigs ear of a year into a silk purse of a season.

ODDS: Laois 7/1, Draw 16/1, Dublin 1/10

VERDICT: Dublin

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