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Thursday 13 December 2018

Mullinalaghta to continue upward curve

THREAT: Mullinalaghta forward Jayson Matthews
THREAT: Mullinalaghta forward Jayson Matthews

There was a time when this fixture wouldn't even have been considered a contest, let alone one heavily tipped to go the way of Mullinalaghta.

Between 1992 and 1998, Éire Óg won five out of seven Leinster club titles, a remarkably concentrated spell of success that hasn't been repeated by any club in the province since.

They lost All-Ireland finals in 1993 and 1996 too, against Kerry opposition on both occasions.

And in that period, they were very much in the category of club football team that Dr Crokes and Corofin occupy now, despite the fact that Carlow's inter-county team's stock was at a lower ebb than where it currently rests.

Mullinalaghta meanwhile, hadn't won a Longford SFC title since 1950 before they embarked on their currently-ticking run of three in a row.

No Longford team has so much as contested a provincial final in this competition, although the portents are good here.

In their maiden foray into provincial competition two years ago, they beat Stradbally before putting up a competitive performance for 55 minutes of their semi-final against St Vincent's, eventually losing by seven points.

Last year, they beat Éire Óg by seven in the Leinster quarter-final before going down by a single point to eventual champions St Loman's in the semi-final.

Quality

Clearly, they've been inching towards something significant.

And there is no easily visible evidence suggesting the separation in quality that existed between these teams last November has narrowed any.

All of those games were in tomorrow's venue, Pearse Park, although Mullinalaghta exploded the theory that they require home advantage to be successful in this year's quarter-final when they went to Tullamore and beat Rhode.

Rhode were harshly reduced when Brian Darby was sent off after a clash with James McGivney after 18 minutes but there was a degree of grit about Mullinalaghta's performance that suggests they can break new ground for club teams from their county tomorrow.

They are a compact, structured team rather than one that plays with any great flair. They have also, as evidenced in their victory over Rhode, learned how to close out matches.

They conceded just three goals in the six games of their Longford SFC campaign while Jayson Matthews, Rian Brady and McGivney provide real variation in attack.

From deep, Donal McElligott has the ability to penetrate and hurt, and given their experience over the past couple of seasons, this game is the next natural step for Mullinalaghta.

ODDS: Mullinalaghta 4/9, Draw 15/2, Éire Óg 9/4

VERDICT: Mullinalaghta

LEINSTER CLUB SFC semi

MULLINALAGHTA v ÉIRE ÓG

(Pearse Pk, Tom, 1.30)

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