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U21 Final Dublin's to lose

DUBLIN v LOUTH

(Pairc Tailteann, Tonight 7.30)

IF YOU'RE to believe the bookmakers, thrill-seekers should avoid Navan at all costs this evening. The Leinster U21 final is a done deal -- all over bar the minor detail of the match itself.

You suspect these odds will be a source of trepidation for Dublin boss Jim Gavin, while Louth counterpart Colin Kelly will play the underdog card for all it is worth.

After all, the first Louth side to reach a Leinster U21 final in 16 years have already revelled in the role of unheralded gatecrashers. Since their first round evisceration of Kilkenny, they've been outsiders against Longford and Offaly.

And each time, having built up sizeable leads, they had to dig deep in the closing stages: they flourished with 14 men before surviving a late Longford comeback, while heroic defending was required to repel a sustained Offaly charge.

By contrast, Dublin's first-round win in Wexford was of the dig-out variety, whereas since then it has been (for the most part) routine.



WORRYING

Over the last two games, against Laois and Westmeath, Dublin have rattled up a combined 6-36 -- proof positive that when Gavin's crew sense weakness, they will punish you.

Mind you, their eventual 15-point margin against Westmeath masks one potentially worrying Sky Blue trait -- a propensity to go AWOL. In that semi-final, they surrendered an early eight-point lead during a second quarter of near-total Westmeath domination, echoing a similar fadeout midway through the second half of their Wexford opener.

Another worry concerns the injuries shipped before and during the Westmeath game, although 'keeper John Brian Carthy and key midfielder Emmet O Conghaile have been passed fit to play. Danny Byrne now partners O Conghaile, replacing the injured Conor Walsh.

More promisingly, when the hard questions were asked by Wexford and Westmeath, Dublin responded. More often than not, the eternally prolific Ciaran Kilkenny has led the scoring riposte while Paul Hudson proved an able semi-final replacement for the injured Harry Dawson.

This final is Dublin's to lose.

DUBLIN: JB Carthy; J Smith, K O'Brien, M Concarr; J Kelly, L Fletcher, J McCaffrey; E O Conghaile, D Byrne; C Reddin, G Sweeney, M Schutte; C Kilkenny, P Hudson, P Ryan.

ODDS: Dublin 1/10, Draw 12/1, Louth 7/1

VERDICT: Dublin


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