Preview: Leinster championship preview

Laois and Kildare have to do it again on Saturday
Laois and Kildare have to do it again on Saturday

Three games are up for decision in Leinster this weekend. Will we find a team who could challenge Dublin?

Dublin still remain the superpower of Leinster Gaelic football but all the pretenders are in action this weekend. 

We predict how they'll get on.

Laois v Kildare, Tullamore, Saturday 7.15, ET if needed

Laois will wonder for a long time how they contrived NOT to win last weekend’s match. Three points ahead with four minutes of normal time remaining and a gale force wind in their backs they still couldn’t close out the game.

Maybe the enormity of what they would face if they won – a clash against Dublin  – finally dawned on them at the end! Seriously though, had they adopted a more positive approach tactically they would surely have sailed home.

Through the sterling efforts of John O’Loughlin they had dominated the midfield exchanges and had they pushed up on Kildare it would have forced their keeper Mark Donnellan to go long with all his kick outs against the wind which would have copper-fastened Laois’ control.

Furthermore, Man of the Match, Donie Kingston should have stayed on the edge of square where he was likely to inflict more significant damage on the Kildare defence rather than roaming out the field.

Salvaging a draw will have boosted Kildare’s fragile confidence levels. By the end of the contest Kildare had a better team on the field at the end of the game than at the throw-in with Tommy Moolick making a big impact in the second half.

Laois still look the better bet and with a first round home match against Antrim in the qualifiers it won’t be a disaster for Kildare if they lose. One suspects the last thing Jason Ryan’s side need right now is a tanking from Dublin.

Verdict: Laois.

Meath v Wicklow, Navan, Sunday, 3.30

This is Meath’s first match at home in the Leinster series since 1995. They are badly hit by injuries with Shane O’Rourke, Conor Gillespie, Bryan Menton, Kevin Reilly and Mickey Newman all absent. Surprisingly, Eamonn Wallace, who missed last season through a cruciate ligament injury, is kept in reserve.

It scarcely matters because unless there is a dramatic improvement in Wicklow’s form they face a long torturous afternoon. They finished seventh in Division 4 winning just a single game in the spring. They’re seeking their first championship win over the Royals since 1957 and the wait is set to continue. 

Stand by for more debate about the structure of the Leinster championship after today’s one-sided affair.

Verdict: Meath.

Westmeath v Wexford, Mullingar, Sunday, 3.30

Wexford’s descent into the abyss has been swift. As recently as 2011 they ought to have beaten Dublin in the Leinster final – a freak own goal from Graeme Molloy turned the game. Next season they will be operating in Division 4.

Westmeath too are treading water having dropped from Division 1 to Division 3 in the space of two seasons. Still, they halted the rot against Louth in the Leinster quarter final when they hammered them 3-14 to 0-16.

Tom Cribben’s side are bidding to reach the provincial semi-final for the first time since 2010 and they ought to achieve their ambition.

The losers face a nightmare trip to either Ballybofey or the Athletic Grounds to face the losers of Donegal v Armagh in the first round of the qualifiers on June 27. Ouch!

Verdict: Westmeath.