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3O'BYRNE CUP PREVIEWS

LAOIS v DIT (Graiguecullen, Tonight, 7.30)

DONIE Kingston is out for Laois with a groin problem while both Darren Rooney and Padraig Clancy are being rested ahead of the league. John O'Loughlin (UCD), Colm Munnelly (DCU), Colm Goss (Waterford IT), Kevin Smith (UL) are unavailable due to college commitments.

VERDICT: Laois

KILDARE v UCD (Newbridge, Tomorrow, 2.0)

'WIN every game' is the mantra seeping from the Kildare camp as they attempt to build on the solid foundations of 2009. They'll have to do it -- for the time being at least -- without Eamon Callaghan (groin) and Mikey Conway (knee), but both John Doyle and Alan Smith are back fit and could play some part tomorrow.

VERDICT: Kildare

CARLOW v AIT (Carlow, Tomorrow, 2.0)

LUKE Dempsey's trawl of Carlow has thrown up a heap of new bodies. Ken Doyle and Barry John Molloy from Rathvilly, Eoin O'Toole, Padraig Murphy and Wayne O'Donoghue from St Patrick's, and Old Leighlin pair David Dowling and David Bambrick come in for a run out in the senior squad and, in fairness, they can't be far below the standards set by the incumbents last season.

Shane Redmond, Daniel St Ledger and Kieran Nolan are unavailable due to college commitments.

VERDICT: Carlow

WICKLOW v LOUTH (Baltinglass, Tomorrow, 2.0)

BY their own admission, Wicklow are in "no man's land" after their early-season training programme fell victim to the big chill. They do, however, have John McGrath, Alan Byrne and Paddy Dalton back from injury, though Damien Power remains sidelined with a broken ankle. Rathnew trio Stephen Canavan, Stephen Kavanagh and Mark Doyle come into Micko's provisional squad after catching the eye in the local championship last season.

Champions Louth started their year with a challenge match victory over Meath, fielding a team comprising of most of last year's runners and riders. And, doubtless, new manager Peter Fitzpatrick has put more impetus on the January slog then his Kerry counterpart.

VERDICT: Louth

LONGFORD v MEATH (Ballymahon, Tomorrow, 2.0)

BRENDAN McElvaney is set for a return to the Longford fold after a two-year intercounty absence but Glen Ryan is perhaps the worst-hit manager in Leinster due to third level involvement in the O'Byrne Cup. No fewer than eight of his squad will line out with their alma mater, while Paul Barden, David Barden, Enda Williams, Peter Foy are all absent with injuries.

Aside from the challenge with Louth, Meath have yet to come together as a group as the weather has confined their 40-strong panel to gym work. Shane O'Rourke is finally back and fully fit.

VERDICT: Meath

KILKENNY v OFFALY (Thomastown, Tomorrow, 2.0)

NO sign of Pádraic Kelly, Conor Evans, Ger Rafferty and Alan McNamee in Tom Cribbin's early-season plans but that won't matter a bit tomorrow in the softest of seasonal openers.

VERDICT: Offaly

WESTMEATH v DCU (St Loman's, Tomorrow, 2.0)

BRENDAN Hackett is another manager playing catch-up after the winter blitz put paid to his designs on conducting trials. No Dessie Dolan, Derek Heavin or David O'Shaughessy -- yet -- but Gary Connaughton, Michael Ennis, Donal O'Donoghue, Fergal Wilson and Denis Glennon are all on board for the year.

Beaten in last year's final, DCU are considered one of the favourites for this year's competition, especially with new recruits Aidan O'Shea (Mayo) and Michael Murphy (Donegal) on board.

VERDICT: DCU


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