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leinster lift-off but dubs get bye to semi

THE Leinster Championship Launch in Portlaoise. 'Cheddar' was on the menu.

The great man of Laois hurling was back. He was training the team down the road in O'Moore Park.

A rainbow lit up the sky. The Leinster Championship is about to go into orbit.

Dublin won't be in action until July 5. They have received a bye to the semi-final.

The new format sees a round-robin system involving the other counties.

Finbarr O'Driscoll is the Leinster President. He finds the time for a chat in the Ladies Football office at Aras Laighean.

The job keeps him busy. "If I wasn't retired from work, I wouldn't be able to do it," he admits.

"There are 12 counties to look after. It keeps you going, and I'm enjoying it."

He'd love to see a more competitive Leinster Championship. "Unfortunately, we haven't got that at the moment.

"It's a bit like the men's football in Leinster with Dublin dominating. It's the same with the women.

"There's a huge gap there, and the question has to be how do we rectify it.

"I was talking to one of the Dublin players recently and she was saying that Dublin are where they are because of hard work.

"And that's the way we have to go. The other counties are working hard, but it's a case of working even harder.

"It wasn't that long ago when Dublin were a junior county. They got their act together, and they are likely to be at the top for a very long time."

Finbarr also sees a purposeful juvenile structure as key.

"That is crucial. At the moment at under-age level, it's really Dublin versus the rest.

"Meath won the Leinster U14 Championship title last week. That was their first juvenile title in four years.

"Counties like Meath and Laois have a good tradition. And Westmeath are on the way up. Sadly, Kildare have been re-graded to Intermediate. They are a county with pedigree.

"We need a more competitive provincial Championship. We'd need eight or so counties up there challenging. That would really make it interesting.

"I feel that if a county are at senior level, they should do everything in their power to stay there.

"Some teams might be worried about coming up against a very strong Dublin team and getting well beaten, but that's the only way you are going to learn. You have to get out there and compete. You have to play against the best."

This summer, Dublin will be seeking their fourth Leinster title in succession. Yet Finbarr feels such dominance can also curtail their chances of lifting the big prize in September.

"When Dublin enter the All-Ireland series, the standard increases. And it's difficult to be prepared for that.

"You are meeting the likes of Cork, Kerry or whoever, and you are going into that game without a serious Championship game behind you.

"That doesn't do the team any good. And a much stronger provincial Championship would certainly be of benefit to Dublin. I said at the outset of my term that it's a situation that needs change. Dublin are the bench-mark, and all the other counties have to bridge the gap."

DUBLIN'S U21 footballers are through to the Aisling McGing U21 All-Ireland final after they defeated Cork 3-17 to 0-10 in Nh MearnĂ³g on Sunday.

The holders were always in control with Niamh Ryan, Siobhan Woods and Eabha Rutledge grabbing the goals.

All three goals came in the opening half and at the interval the Jackies led 3-6 to 0-7.

A huge boost for Dublin was the display of sub Oonagh White who came on to kick four points from play.

Oonagh suffered the dreaded ACL injury a few seasons back but is back to her best.