| 8.9°C Dublin

Royals won't fluff their lines at second time of asking

FIRST thing's first. Carlow did not come close to scalping Meath last weekend. It was they who had the late, hugely fortuitous goal and it was they who trailed for pretty much the entire match.

Meath looked fairly comfortable in their own skin, could manufacture a score when the need arose and put Carlow on their backsides with smart points on each of three occasions in the second half when they pulled the deficit back to a point -- even with 14 men.

Seamus McEnaney's assertion that his Royal brigade were "lucky" to escape with a draw was wholly inaccurate. Luke Dempsey's praise for his own troops' fortitude was, to be fair, much more genuine.

They were brave and confident and ballsy and kept chipping away all throughout and, maybe for that, Carlow deserved their late stroke of luck.

But at no stage last Sunday did Carlow look like a win might be on the cards. So while Banty fumed afterwards about the outcome being "the best possible result we could get out of" the drawn match and insisted in the strongest possible terms that "if we don't get ourselves up for next weekend, we'll go out of the Leinster Championship," Meath could actually benefit from fluffing their lines last week.

In what sort of shape, you wonder, might they have approached a potential Leinster semi-final with Kildare after narrowly beating Carlow?

Surely the problems (predominantly in midfield) which afflicted them a week ago are better off fined-tuned in another outing prior to returning to Croke Park to take on Kieran McGeeney's men.

Graham Reilly's move to the middle has proved a wise decision, but for all his forward thrust and scoring ability, the Meath midfield were wiped in their primary duties. In particular, Brendan Murphy dictated those exchanges and if he starts, despite last week's concussion, Meath will have to take action.

Damien Carroll starts for the Royals in place of Paddy Gilsenan and the fact remains, Carlow were springing leaks all over their back line last week.

And if Cian Ward and Brian Farrell are afforded as much ball as they feasted on last week, this one could prove a whole lot more straightforward.

In replays, the rule of the GAA generally prevails -- the one that states that the team that always wins, always wins. On that basis and the fact that they were clearly superior last week, we'll plump for Meath.

ODDS: Meath 1/9, Draw 12/1, Carlow 7/1


CARLOW: T O'Reilly; P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger; Brendan Murphy, D Foley; Brian Murphy, C Murphy, E Ruth; JJ Smith, S Gannon, C Walsh.

MEATH: D Gallaghert; D Keogan, K Reilly, B Menton; D Tobin, S McAnarney, M Burke; C Gillespie, B Meade; A Forde, D Carroll, G Reilly; B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward