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Friday 15 December 2017

Clarke's troops can defy odds in Royal rumble

meath SFC FINAL

donaghmore ashbourne v O'MAHONY'S

(Navan, Tomorrow, 3.30)

GIVEN Ashbourne's straddling of the Dublin border - and the very obvious cross-pollination of identities from both Meath and the capital - it's unsurprising that there is some strong Dublin interest in this year's Keegan Cup final.

Donaghmore Ashbourne are currently managed by Dublin's 1995 All-Ireland winner and former senior team trainer, Paul Clarke. Moreover, Michael Deegan - son of Mick and an All-Ireland Under 21 winner last year - plays corner-forward for them.

The latter's eligibility to play for Dublin has long been a point of contention in Meath and if he shoots the lights out tomorrow, expect the grumbling to reach a noisy and disgruntled crescendo in Páric Tailteann.

They beat Na Fianna by eight points in the semi-final but tomorrow will be their first county final since 1943 and the expectation in the county is that they'll be beaten, despite a pristine record thus far in the competition.

Not only are they unbeaten, they've already beaten the defending champions, Summerhill. And twice, in both the round robin and semi-final, Donaghmore Ashbourne have accounted for the 2013 beaten finalists, Na Fianna, albeit their opposition finished with just 12 men on the pitch at the end of the latter game.

O'Mahony's have a large gang from the team that won two years ago and plenty who took the title four years before that.

The likes of Niall McCaigue and Cormac McGuinness have been exemplary all season and while Kevin Reilly is very obviously a loss, they won a county title without him in 2012.

Possess

And in Stephen Bray and David Bray, they possess two attackers capable of winning these sorts of occasions on their own.

Donaghmore Ashbourne are seen very much as Meath's up-and-coming team and in keeping with that theme, possess some of the county's new wave.

Andrew Tormey had a progressive season for Meath, even if most will only remember their tanking by Dublin, but at centre-forward - and at club level - he is a difficult man to stop in full flight and his ball-striking is hugely improved this season.

Bryan Menton, meanwhile, has become one of the leaders of the Meath senior team and likewise, a county title would take some of the bad taste away from a weird season for those in Mick O'Dowd's squad.

All the usual factors would point to a Navan O'Mahony's victory but we're inclined to think Clarke's men will finish their campaign with that perfect record intact and more importantly, the Keegan Cup.

ODDS: D' Ashbourne 15/8, Draw 15/2, O'Mahony's 8/13

VERDICT: Navan O'Mahony's

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