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Model look pretty good but Royals' wealth of pedigree can prevail

PERHAPS the safest option is to plump for the draw! This is one of those championship encounters that could yet turn into a one-sided romp but – in advance of throw-in – only invites uncertainty, confusion and multiple changes of mind.

Why? Any number of imponderables.

We'll start with the first and most obvious one: there is little to separate them in the first place. Wexford played at a higher spring level (Division Two) but were relegated; Meath featured in Division Three but were promoted.

Onto the first round of the championship, where both sides started in reasonably decent fettle.

Meath were potentially vulnerable favourites heading to Aughrim and would have found themselves in deep trouble but for a six-point turnaround late in the first half – a missed Wicklow penalty followed immediately by a freak Kevin Reilly goal. But having weathered the storm, they closed out the game in relative comfort, winning by five points.

Wexford, meanwhile, went into their quarter-final as underdogs – largely because of what Louth had already achieved in dismantling a dismal Laois. But the visitors excelled before the break and, despite a nervous second half, held on to win by a solitary point.

So, both sides should come to HQ with some bolstered belief while realising the urgent imperative to up it again. Who is best equipped to do so? Again, a tough one. Wexford have four scoring forwards who, on their day, are capable of brilliance – namely Ciarán Lyng (pictured right), Redmond Barry, Ben Brosnan and PJ Banville.

Ergo, the Meath defence will have to eradicate some of the slackness that blighted their first-half display against Wicklow. This helps to explain why teenager Pádraic Harnan (making his first SFC start) and veteran former captain Seamus Kenny (back after last summer's cruciate heartbreak) are promoted in the two wing-back berths; both steadied the ship in Aughrim upon their half-time introductions.

As for Meath's attacking arsenal, they have plenty of firepower too and, perhaps crucially, more pace than heretofore. Graham Reilly has always been quick, and underlined his penchant for banging over points on the run against Wicklow (with four in total). But even Reilly would struggle to match Eamonn Wallace – no surprise since the teenage rookie doubles as an Irish U19 sprint champion.

Crucially, Wallace also underlined his footballing potential two weeks ago with three fine points from play. Fellow newcomer Michael Newman had a comparatively mixed evening, with some impressive long-range deadball strikes negated by a couple of fluffed frees from closer range.

At midfield, Brian Meade was one of Meath's leading quarter-final lights – but the sector leaked several points to Wicklow and will probably have to raise its game again, given the recent form of Wexford's Dáithí Waters.

In summary, here's an intriguing clash between two Leinster wannabes, each under new management and spying a glorious chance to reach a provincial final. Meath have the tradition, but Wexford have prevailed in their last two SFC encounters. We're tempted to toss a coin, but instead we'll stick with our hunch ...

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Meath 5/6, Draw 15/2, Wexford 5/4

VERDICT: Meath


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