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Monaghan have necessary to earn date with Dublin

THERE'S little point in attempting to investigate Kildare's recent form and draw any definitive line going into this match so we won't bother.

They're seriously young. And under new management, playing a changed style of football.

So patchy form - even within games - is an inevitability.

This though, could be the one big scalp, the season-defining win which would take the after-taste of relegation and Leinster failure away for good.

Their roaring finishes (0-7 to 0-0 in last 15 v Clare, 1-8 to 0-0 in last 10 v Down) bode well but Monaghan are a couple of levels of class, experience and all the other things that make trophy winners out of a team above what Kildare have faced thus far.

Which isn't to say Jason Ryan's men can't hurt Monaghan.

If Alan Smith's form were to hold and Niall Kelly, and the reignited Tomás O'Connor and Eoghan O'Flaherty all hit the money early on, Kildare are potentially one of the highest scoring teams in Ireland.

At present, though, they're just a little too inconsistent to predict which end of the performance spectrum they'll occupy on a given day.

The last time Monaghan played in Croke Park, they beat Donegal in a Division 2 League final that suggested their re-organisation of the furniture in Ulster last summer was a more permanent arrangement than most had suspected.

There was mitigation, but it was ignored.

Donegal were only just back from a warm-weather training camp. And, as Seamus McEnaney told the Herald this week, "seven of the points Monaghan scored that day were with the outside of the boot. And that's not very reliable."

They've missed Owen Lennon and Conor McManus' injury has disjointed his form. Thus, the draw with Armagh and the defeat to Donegal is probably a decent sign of slippage in their ranks since the heady summer of 2013.

And, as 'Banty' also pointed out, it's a serious worry for Monaghan if Kieran Hughes and McManus are kept quiet.

As a duo, they are responsible for close to 70 per cent of the team's scores these past two years and if Malachy O'Rourke drops a man back - as he has done in every match of his tenure thus far - Kildare won't need to sacrifice an attacker to ensure a sweeper in their own rearguard.

Kildare definitely have that momentum. They also have the mobility and youth for 70 plus minutes in Croke Park.

But this Monaghan team has developed knack of winning big games. And having botched their post-Ulster campaign last year, they're unlikely to miss the performance mark so spectacularly again here.

They're stronger and more experienced and have the more accurate shooters and, for that, they get the nod.

ODDS: Monaghan 8/15, Draw 8/1, Kildare 21/10

VERDICT: Monaghan