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Kildare should win at a canter as long as they respect Treaty

WE'LL begin this bout of crystal gazing by breaking the first rule of GAA preview writing -- telling you who's going to win in the first paragraph. Stop the presses ... Kildare!

Now we'll devote the second par to asking ourselves if it's really such a sure thing. More to the point, we're amazed that Limerick are such long odds (11/2) while Kildare are being quoted at the same 1/6 price that they attracted for last weekend's trip to Cavan.

Okay, so Cavan are a Division Three team while Limerick are loitering in Division Four and also, just a few weeks ago, were stunned by Clare. Plus you've the fact that Cavan were at home whereas Limerick must travel to a Kildare-leaning neutral venue.

All of which fails to recognise a few salient facts about Limerick. One, they are a poor league team but a far more substantial championship beast.

Two, they are a pretty battle-hardened bunch (aided and abetted by a recent influx of youth). Physically, they are better equipped to try and mix it with Kildare than, say, Cavan's blend of lightweight youngsters and labouring giants.

The 'visitors' are also boosted by the return to fitness of Ger Collins, who sat out their dramatic extra-time victory in Longford.

The Limerick skipper knows where the posts are and, with Collins back in tandem with the prolific Ian Ryan, the Kildare full-back line could have their hands full.

Even against Cavan, the Lilies' last line encountered a few hairy moments, with former All Star corner-back Peter Kelly looking less than assured in his altered edge-of-the-square role.

The official Kildare line-up (unchanged from last weekend) has Kelly still at full-back and Michael Foley at midfield. And Seánie Johnston, for that matter, still on the bench.

As ever, nothing will be written in stone until throw-in, although the expected duel between Tomás O'Connor and Limerick full-back Johnny McCarthy could be worth the admission fee alone.

As alluded to at the outset, Kildare deserve to be favourites for several reasons.

You can cite their unblemished qualifier record under Kieran McGeeney. Or the collective energy and individual return to form of several players last weekend, especially up front. Or even a well stocked bench if Plan A splutters.

That said, Limerick's subs made all the difference in Longford, no one more so than Derry O'Connor whose last-gasp point forced extra-time en route to scoring 1-2. Any team that reaches an All-Ireland quarter-final one year, then makes a winning raid on Pearse Park the next, deserves to be taken seriously.

Presuming Kildare do so, victory should be theirs.

KILDARE: S Connolly; A Mac Lochlainn, P Kelly, H McGrillen; E Bolton, M O'Flaherty, E Doyle; M Foley, R Kelly; E O'Flaherty, M Conway, J Doyle; J Kavanagh, T O'Connor, A Smith.

LIMERICK: B Scanlon; A Lane, J McCarthy, L O'Dwyer; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, S Buckley; E O'Connor, S Kelly, P Browne; G Collins, S O'Carroll, I Ryan.

ODDS: Kildare 1/6, Draw 10/1, Limerick 11/2

VERDICT: Kildare