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Laois young guns aiming to give Dubs test after last year's final collapse

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Ciarán Archer. Photo: Sportsfile

Ciarán Archer. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ciarán Archer. Photo: Sportsfile

Even recent history is to be treated with extreme scepticism as a source of wisdom in calling matches in the EirGrid U-20 Championship.

Last July, a Dublin U-20 team, managed by Tom Gray and spearheaded by Ciarán Archer, beat Laois by 13 points (4-18 to 0-17) in the Leinster final at O'Connor Park.

The assumption then, is that with Gray and Archer still on board, this Dublin team should be favourites against the same opposition in tonight's provincial decider in Netwatch Cullen Park, a fact reflected in the sharp odds.

But it doesn't always work that way at this grade.

For a start, Archer and Gray are the only common link between this Dublin team and last year's.

Indeed Archer, whose form hasn't been as impressive so far as it was in 2019, is the only member of the Dublin team who won't be underage again next year.

This is a young Dublin side, shorn of all but one of their players that appeared in last year's All-Ireland decider, albeit they have been mostly impressive to this point.

Laois's situation is noticeably different.

Horrendous

Nine of the team who beat Kildare in the Leinster semi-final, on a horrendous night for football, were involved in last year's provincial decider, including goalkeeper Matthew Byron and half of their year's starting defence - Michael Dowling, Alex Mohan and Seán O'Flynn.

Jack Lacey came off the bench that day, as did Jack Owens and Mark Barry - both of whom are part of Laois's current attack, alongside Ronan Coffey and Colin Slevin, surviving starters from the 2019 side.

"They're a really good side," Gray stressed after Dublin's surprisingly easy semi-final win over Meath.

"The scoreline last year in no way reflected the game. They have some exceptionally good footballers; Mark Barry and Sean Flynn are top class footballers."

"It's going to be an absolute battle against them the next day".

On the one hand, this Dublin team are somewhat below optimum with Brian O'Leary - who would have brought the number of players who played in last year's All-Ireland final to two - and Seán Lowry both out with hamstring injuries.

On the other, players have flourished as a result of their enforced absences.

Templeogue Synge Street forward Lorcan O'Dell looked sharp on the '40 in Parnell Park against Meath while Luke Swan - of 2019 Dublin minor football and hurling fame - brought all his inherent directness and physicality to his job at full-forward.

Clanna Gael Fontenoy Evan Caulfield added something from midfield too, scoring 0-3 against the Royals while Rory Dwyer and Mark Lavin brought great energy around the middle third for a Dublin team that simply buried Meath with well-timed goals.

Tonight, they play a team with a deeper well of experience to draw from and Gray's prediction of an "absolute battle" should prove a more accurate prediction than the 1/5 odds in favour of the Dubs being offered by some bookies.

Irish Independent