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Clarke: Dubs aura fading

LOUTH and St Sylvester's star Darren Clarke reckons that Dublin's provincial failings this year have dulled the aura which once surrounded the team and feels that he and his Wee County colleagues will have nothing to fear this Saturday when they step into the Croker cauldron for the first time since their Leinster final calamity.

Clarke, who has played for the Malahide club for the past three seasons and lined out with and against the best and the brightest Dublin football has to offer, says the draw doesn't carry the same sense of trepidation for Louth as it did in their last championship meeting back in 2008.

"Dublin probably don't have the same air of invincibility about them that they had under Caffrey, when they were putting up some serious scores," said Clarke, who missed the 2008 clash due to injury.

Clarke was an unused sub on Leinster final day when a late, controversial Joe Sheridan goal robbed the Wee County of a first provincial title in 53 years.

But he says that Louth are, for many, the unofficial Leinster champions.

He also feels that Dublin didn't come close to doing themselves justice when they went under by 11 points to the Royals in their Leinster semi-final meeting.

"Although Meath got their hands on the cup, a lot of people will view us as Leinster champions," he said.

"They had a very bad day against Meath when everything Meath hit seemed to go into the back of the net.

"But fair play to Gilroy, he has stuck with the same full-back line since then.

"Dublin will be a tough team and for us, it will be about cutting off the supply of ball going into the likes of Brogan."

Meanwhile, Louth have a handful of injury problems ahead of Saturday's last-12 clash, despite reporting a clean bill of health earlier this week.

Peter Fitzpatrick has named the same starting 15 for all five of Louth's championship matches to date but there could be significant change for the clash with the Dubs.

"We have three or four lads who haven't trained since the Meath game and if they don't train tonight, they're out," explained Fitzpatrick.

"I don't want to name lads because that puts extra pressure on them but we have plenty of lads ready to come in if needs be."