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Lilies must raise game to avoid a West wake


Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Picture: Sportsfile

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Picture: Sportsfile

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Picture: Sportsfile

SIXTEEN years have passed since Kildare's last Leinster title - few expect that run to end next month.

Seven years have elapsed since the Lilies last reached a provincial final - they are warm favourites with the bookies to end that barren run tomorrow.

On second thoughts, should that be lukewarm?

Cian O'Neill's men are fancied (perhaps understandably) on the grounds that while they were securing promotion from Division 3, Westmeath were falling through the same division's trap door.

Kildare also score more highly for their underage production line and, as a consequence, the strength of their Plan B options (with a handful of seasoned erstwhile starters listed in the subs).

But there are grounds for caution, even trepidation. The team named by O'Neill shows five changes - no surprise given Kildare's desperately poor performance against Wexford, when belief seemed to drain away as a dourly defensive non-spectacle evolved.

At least Niall Kelly is back from injury to re-energise a fitful attack ... but they've lost Kevin Feely and Paul Cribbin in the meantime while Daniel Flynn is still out.

Westmeath can now dare to dream once more after putting their dire league campaign to bed with a gutsy, one-point win over Offaly.

Tom Cribbin needs most of his main men, namely John Heslin, Kieran Martin, Ger Egan, Paul Sharry, John Connellan (and maybe his Aussie-bound brother Ray) to hit form. If that happens, Kildare must raise their game.

ODDS: Kildare 1/3 Draw 9/1 Westmeath 3/1
VERDICT: Kildare
Leinster SFC: Kildare v Westmeath, Croke Pk, Tom 4.15, live RTÉ 1