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McGeeney will ensure a few Wee lessons have been learned for League

KILDARE v DOWN

(Newbridge, Tomorrow 2.30)

KIERAN McGEENEY comes across as the type of guy who would hate losing a game of pitch-and-toss with a 10 cent stake. Ergo, he can't have been overly enamoured of the manner in which Kildare went from likely winners to five-point losers in the closing minutes of their O'Byrne Cup semi-final against Louth.

"I thought our discipline was poor in the tackle," Geezer complained afterwards. It probably wasn't the only thing that irked the Armagh man.

Still, to lose an O'Byrne Cup clash will have been worth it if some valuable lessons are learned for the league ahead.

Last year, Kildare were one of the most consistently impressive teams in Ireland but they also consistently came up just short -- pipped for promotion on the last day, edged out by Dublin in a classic Leinster final, and again by Tyrone at the last-eight stage.

This year, they badly want some silverware to go with the plaudits and -- before a ball is kicked in anger -- they look to have the personnel and finely honed method of play to nail a top-flight place.

There are obstacles, starting with Down, who will be keen to shed their underachieving tag under the new management of James McCartan.

Johnny Doyle's suspension robs Kildare of some cutting edge while Alan Smith, an All Star nominee last year, is currently off the panel.

At least James Kavanagh, another attacking star of last year, is back in the starting mix along with the veteran Ronan Sweeney.

All Down eyes will be on their prodigal AFL star, Martin Clarke, but we've a marginal fancy for the Lilywhites.

ODDS: Kildare 8/13, Draw 15/2, Down 7/4

VERDICT: Kildare

MEATH v ARMAGH

(Pairc Tailteann, Tonight 7.30, live Setanta 1)

ROYAL prospects of a winning league start have been hindered by Joe Sheridan's hamstring injury but, even without Big Joe and Brian Farrell, manager Eamonn O'Brien is still able to field a relatively potent attack.

He has the Bray brothers on board and Cian Ward in the corner, while big Jamie Queeney is hoping to take the next career step by making the full-forward position his own.

Tonight's floodlit opener promises to be close and, as ever with Armagh in the opposite corner, frenetically fought.

The Orchard men have long since shed their All-Ireland aura but, with Ronan Clarke and Steven McDonnell included on the inside line, the Meath defence can expect plenty of it.

ODDS: Meath 5/6, Draw 7/1, Armagh 11/8

VERDICT: Meath

LAOIS v TIPPERARY

(Portlaoise, Tonight 7.30)

WITH four players suspended after those O'Byrne Cup shenanigans with Kildare, and none of the Portlaoise crew available either, Laois could be vulnerable as they seek to banish awful memories of 2009. 'The road to football recovery starts here' read the Laois Nationalist this week -- not if Tipp have their way. They've won consecutive promotions but, this spring, they'll gladly settle for survival.

ODDS: Laois 4/6, Draw 15/2, Tipp 13/8

VERDICT: Laois

WESTMEATH v DONEGAL

(Cusack Pk, Tomorrow 2.30)

YOU could argue that winning Division Two in 2008 was the worst thing to happen Westmeath, given all that went horribly wrong last year.

Now, it seems, most people have them as early bankers for relegation and even if Dessie Dolan were around -- which he isn't -- they would still struggle. Donegal won by five in Mullingar last spring and have just won the McKenna Cup.

Do the maths.

ODDS: Westmeath 14/5, Draw 15/2, Donegal 2/5 VERDICT: Donegal


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