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Friday 22 November 2019

Carlow's robust style may test the Royals

Andy McEntee
Andy McEntee

Such was the indifference of much of Meath's performance in their Leinster opener against Offaly in Navan a couple of weeks ago, Carlow's ability to cause a second major provincial shock in just a year was immediately talked up.

The reality is their chances probably went the same way as the appeals rejected by the CAC made in the names of Brendan Murphy, Turlough O'Brien and Stephen Poacher last week.

While it's true that Carlow beat Kildare last summer without Murphy, who had decided to play his summer football in America at that stage, he quickly reinstalled himself as a totemic force in O'Brien's team during the league.

And they were desperately unlucky to plunge straight back into Division 4, particularly after O'Brien identified preservation of Division 3 status as their primary goal for the year.

The good news is that Carlow possess lots of the traits Meath tend to find irritating.

They are physically big, noticeably strong and abrasive to boot. They are meticulously organised and difficult to penetrate.

Someone as explosive as Seán Murphy will be difficult to track from the middle and between Paul Broderick and Darragh Foley, they will kick a high percentage of their frees.

So any notions that Meath can throw up another tepid performance and expect to win should be immediately discounted.

Against Offaly, they struggled with the size and force of Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham at various stages and hadn't the dynamism in their running game to prize John Maughan's team open.

Other than Bryan McMahon's late, game-winning and highly-fortuitous goal, the only other viable chance they had to score one came when Mickey Newman scuffed a shot straight to Paddy Dunican.

Prolific

Between them, Ben Brenndan, Barry Daris and Thomas O'Reilly contributed just 0-2 and if Meath's shortcomings can be crystallised into one central issue, it's a lack of consistently prolific forwards.

There was a feeling of disappointment, more so than relief, in Navan two weeks ago, despite Meath actually wrestling a victory from what at one stage, looked a fairly bleak scenario so Andy McEntee is sure to have turned the screw in the last few weeks.

If the Royals start well here, Carlow might not be built to come back at them.

If they don't, McEntee's men must learn the value of poise as well as patience.

ODDS: Carlow 7/1, Draw 14/1, Meath 1/10

VERDICT: Meath

LEINSTER SFC Q-FINALS

CARLOW v MEATH

Portlaoise (Today, 5.0)

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