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Momentum with Meath and Kildare in semi ties

O'BYRNE CUP SF SEMI-FINAL

MEATH v DCU

(Páirc Tailteann, Tomorrow 2.0)

A STRANGE week for DCU, whose joy at toppling the All-Ireland champions (or a version of same) must have been tempered by the ongoing controversy over an allegation that one of their players was bitten. Okay, so the resultant media spotlight was focused primarily on Dublin, but their Glasnevin comrades won't have enjoyed it one bit either.

Tomorrow brings a chance to forget their off-field distractions and do what DCU do best, winning football matches, a task carried out with aplomb during the group stages.

Their victories over Louth and Westmeath were emphatic but they had to dig really deep against the Dubs, no one more so than match-winner Davey Byrne, while Wicklow's Conor McGraynor (with a running total of 3-10) maintained his eye-catching record of a goal in every game.

Tomorrow though, they face a Royal collective that has been scoring for fun this past fortnight – 4-11 against DIT, 0-18 against Carlow, another 4-11 against Wicklow, for a running total of 8-40.

The quality of opposition requires an asterisk and we can safely surmise that DCU – while no longer possessing the glut of marquee players they had a few years back – will provide a far sterner test. Yet Mick O'Dowd's men have early-season momentum, the hint of a swagger and home advantage. Enough to swing it.

ODDS: Meath 1/3, Draw 8/1, DCU 3/1 (Boylesports)

VERDICT: Meath

O'BYRNE CUP SF SEMI-FINAL

KILDARE v UCD

(Newbridge, Tomorrow 2.0)

IT'S not every day a manager makes 14 changes because his team can't stop winning, but that's what Jason Ryan has done here.

The overhaul is more understandable when you consider that Ryan had rung the changes for last weekend's de facto dead-rubber against Carlow, and his latest selection looks considerably stronger on paper.

While Emmet Bolton is the only starting survivor, there's a handful of other familiar names included (Shane Connolly, Mick Foley, Hugh McGrillen, Eoghan O'Flaherty and Paul Cribbin, to name five).

O'Flaherty was Kildare's most potent performer in their earlier cakewalks against Athlone IT and Longford, while a sharp-looking Pádraig Fogarty exploded from the traps against Longford ... they both return here.

The Belfield boys did well to recover from day-one defeat in Offaly to top their group, via impressive victories over Wexford and Laois. John Heslin and Paul Mannion led the scoring charge against the latter (underlying the star quality at UCD's disposal), but we're sticking with the Lilies, for all their well-documented injury absentees.

ODDS: Kildare 1/3, Draw 8/1, UCD 3/1 (Boylesports)

VERDICT: Kildare

– Frank Roche


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