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Friday 15 December 2017

Dublin must quell Murphys to reach decider

CADBURY's LEINSTER U21 FC SEMI-FINALS

CARLOW v DUBLIN

(Dr Cullen Park, Tomorrow, 4.0)

THAT Dublin needed extra-time to scale Louth in the first round of the Leinster championship should have come as no great shock to anyone. Dublin won a Leinster title last year, with some of the current crew on board, having started slowly in games and Louth, don't forget, had hammered Wexford by 20 points in the first round.

Dublin came in cold and played like that, and, were it not for the late intervention of Lucan Sarsfield's David Quinn and Gary Sweeney, Jim Gavin's men might well have come a cropper altogether. Last year they enjoyed the comforts of Parnell Park in all but their first game in Leinster, but the trip to Carlow tomorrow comes with obvious hazards attached.

This, remember, is the year Carlow's Leinster minor final team of 2007 are all at their peak at this age group and they disposed of Kilkenny in the quarter-final with predictable ease, winning 1-16 to 0-3. Denis Murphy kicked 1-5 that day, but a more pertinent threat to Dublin tomorrow may well be Brendan Murphy, the former Sydney Swans rookie, who helped himself to five points from play in the same game from midfield.

Dublin's midfield combination of Mark Coughlan and Cian Mullins need to be vigilant of his forward darts, while Seán Murray is now back in his more natural habitat of centre-back.

Dublin don't need to worry about the elusive Daniel St Ledger as he is currently serving a four-week suspension.

Doubtless, Dublin will miss the poise of Darragh Nelson after the Ballyboden St Enda's man and current senior panellist was dismissed for a straight red against Louth, but they'll look for their other senior men, James McCarthy, Rory O'Carroll, Murray and Dean Rock, to lead in his absence.

Rock, in particular, could have a major influence. He kicked 1-4 (0-3f) the last day but missed a few scoreable frees, but if he hits the mark from the dead ball, Dublin could avoid the sort of frantic finale they weathered in Dundalk.

VERDICT: Dublin

WESTMEATH v LAOIS

(Mullingar, Tomorrow, 1.30)

AS the Leinster-winning team of 2004 all drift closer to retirement, it's been said more than once that Westmeath need a decent U21 team to revitalise football in the county. And, according to many within it, this may well be it.

Defeating Meath in championship football carries with it enormous psychological benefits for a Westmeath team, and there's no earthly reason why Westmeath would fear Laois who, by their own lofty recent standards, have dipped somewhat in underage football recently.

There's still plenty of class in this O'Moore County team, though. Donie Kingston, for one, is a major danger at this level, though Laois's lack of midfield options have taken him away from his most dangerous stomping ground on the edge of the opposition's square.

Paul Cahillane is one to watch too, his eye for goal and impressive place-kicking earning him the AIB Leinster club footballer of the year award last year. Conor Lynam will command a place on the Westmeath seniors whenever his U21 involvement ends, while there is major excitement about the future prospects of 17-year-old midfielder John Heslin, a high-fielding, point-scoring force of nature in the middle of the park.

VERDICT: Westmeath

CONOR McKEON

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