Meath defence can build platform for victory over neighbours Westmeath
Preview: Leinster SFC semi-final – Meath v Westmeath, Croke Park, 2.0
The Meath side is considerably stronger with Kevin Reilly (above) and Michael Newman back along with Mickey Burke, Bryan Menton and Cormac McGill made a strong impact during the league at full back. Photograph: Inpho
Dublin’s provincial supremacy has frustrated no county as much as Meath, runners-up in the last three Leinster finals and the last team to defeat the champions in the province.
Beset by injury and up-and-down form in the league, Mick O’Dowd’s side might otherwise have been promoted but finished decently and had to face into their first championship fixture short five very important players and did just about enough to see off Wicklow.
They have however been consistent in the provincial championship, twice beating their nearest challengers Kildare before reaching Dublin.
This weekend’s team is considerably stronger with Kevin Reilly and Michael Newman back along with Mickey Burke, Bryan Menton and Cormac McGill, who although a debutant, made a strong impact during the league at full back.
Reilly is, given his return from persistent injury problems, slightly surprisingly named at centrefield but the starting line-up may well be re-shuffled before the start and he got a run late in the Wicklow match.
His leadership wherever it’s deployed in the back eight will be valuable, as the under-strength defence proved fairly porous against Wicklow.
Westmeath have good momentum having won two championship matches to help distance the memory of the league relegation although the blow-out that followed evidently helped to clear the air and the defeat of Wexford required a good deal of nerve.
John Heslin is playing well and will test McGill’s rising reputation whereas Shane Dempsey has been scoring impressively in the corner. With the improved defence again available though, Meath look capable of controlling the damage and have enough quality in attack to win what should be an interesting contest.
Last meeting: 2009 All-Ireland qualifiers round two, Cusack Park, Mullingar, Meath 1-15, Westmeath 0-5. Odds: Meath 4 to 11, Westmeath 11 to 4 and 10 to 1 the draw. Injuries: Meath welcome back a number of players who missed the Wicklow match but long-term casualties Shane O’Rourke and Conor Gillespie are still unavailable. Half forward Callum McCormack misses out for Westmeath with a hamstring injury. Suspension: None. Just the ticket: Available on the day, stand €30, terrace €20, juvenile €5. Senior citizen and student concessions (€15 rebate) available for Cusack and Davin Stand. Verdict: Meathto win.
MEATH: Patrick O’Rourke; James McEntee, Conor McGill, Donncha Tobin; Mickey Burke, Donal Keogan (capt.), Bryan Menton; Harry Rooney, Kevin Reilly; Graham Reilly, Pádraic Harnan, Andrew Tormey; Michael Newman, Stephen Bray, Brian McMahon. WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn; Killian Daly, Kevin Maguire, John Gilligan; Paddy Holloway, Kieran Martin, James Dolan; Paul Sharry, Darragh Daly; Ray Connellan, Ger Egan, Denis Corroon; Lorcan Smyth, John Heslin, Shane Dempsey. Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).