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Time for Meath to step up to the plate

MEATH v DOWN

(Navan, Tonight, 7.0, Setanta 1)

MICK O'Dowd invested a huge amount of fate in the explosive potential of Éamon Wallace and, even if the Ratoath speedster hasn't always been refined this year, the suspicion was that once summer arrived and – most pertinently – Meath got back into Croke Park, he would take off.

Luckily, O'Dowd has Graham Reilly – Meath's most dynamic player these past three or so years – back in harness, picked in place of Bryan McMahon, who is rested on account of his involvement with the U21s in Wednesday's Leinster final with Dublin. Mickey Burke suffered a hamstring injury against the Down hurlers last Sunday and so Caolan Young deputises.

It's a difficult task for Meath given Down's form over the past three rounds, but it's about time the Royals starting finding that consistency to carry them into Championship.

ODDS: Meath EVS, Draw 15/2, Down 21/20

VERDICT: Meath

MONAGHAN v LAOIS

(Clones, Tomorrow, 2.0)

OF the three teams joined on seven points at the summit of the second rung (Donegal, Monaghan and Down), the Farney men easily have the most comfortable run-in.

Home to Laois tomorrow and then hosting Galway in a week isn't the sort of conclusion to spring likely to keep Malachy O'Rourke awake at night. For Laois, losing at home to Meath last time out after being five points up wasn't ideal and neither is the timing and/or the location of this fixture.

Likelihood is, they'll lose here and need something at home to Down next Sunday.

ODDS: Monaghan 2/7, Draw 9/1, Laois 7/2

VERDICT: Monaghan

GALWAY v ARMAGH

(Tuam, Tomorrow, 2.0)

ALL you have to do is look back to Michael Meehan's last game to see how much he'll be missed in Galway.

The Caltra former wonderkid scored 1-6 (0-3 from play) last July as Galway – serial and chronic underachievers this past decade – got within a point of taking Cork out of last year's Championship. Without him, a lot of the annual promise of Galway locating a semblance of form evaporates, but they'll need something against Armagh tomorrow.

Galway are a point adrift of Laois – and two off Armagh and Meath – in seventh spot and with a likely barren trip to Clones to come on the final day.

ODDS: Galway 4/6, Draw 8/1, Armagh 6/4

VERDICT: Galway

DONEGAL v LOUTH

(Ballyshannon, Tomorrow, 3.0)

FOR all their class and the obvious relocation of their inner 2012, Jim McGuinness has started just 16 players this spring, across five matches.

Which, for a team notoriously shallow on depth, doesn't bode well if and when some of that clearly excellent core get injured.

Paddy McGrath, dogged with a groin injury, is set to return next week against Armagh for the first time since last August and, while Frank McGlynn and Neil Gallagher both skipped training this week due to injury, both should feature here.

ODDS: Donegal 1/10, Draw 12/1, Louth 7/1

VERDICT: Donegal

– COMPILED BY CONOR McKEON


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