Match Preview: Local rivals lock horns in Promotion Battle Royal

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Match Preview: Local rivals lock horns in Promotion Battle Royal
By Robert Cribbin 9:10 Sunday 3rd of March 2019

If Championship football in the spring time is your thing then this may be as close as you get throughout the National League as Kildare and Meath rekindle their rivalry in Navan this afternoon.

Meath are sitting pretty at the top of Division 2 but with games against Kildare and Fermanagh to come they are entering a crucial period.

It all starts with bitter rivals Kildare coming to town yet again (Let’s not get into that for now) and if you are being truthful the Lilywhites have very much had the upper hand over the Royals as of late.

Its 13 years since Meath dined at the top table and they seem especially desperate to break that duck this term and it has to be said there are definitely some positive signs emanating from across the border.

They are desperate to get a slice of the pie at the top table for even one season and with recent underage success they are definitley getting closer to that aim.

The pressure is all on Meath in that regard as Kildare have had fleeting appearances in Division 1 and although it has proved to be rather unsuccessful they were still there and they now have an All Ireland Under 20 Title to sit back on aswell.

This is Andy McEntee’s third year in charge of Meath and they seem to be slowly turning a corner with just a narrow away defeat to Donegal being the black mark on their campaign thus far.

A near capacity crowd is expected and publicly Meath have been banging the drum for support with McEntee in particular urging Meath people to get out and follow the team.

Meath would very much see Dublin as their main rivals and rightly so but for many in Kildare this has always been the big one.

Traditionally Meath have always had the upper hand over their neighbours but the wheel has turned somewhat over the last two decades.

It all started with the three game series in 1997 and the historic Leinster Final in 1998 which eventually led on to the Geezer and Banty era and now to today’s group of players.

Dublin are ahead of everyone in Leinster and Ireland currently so Meath need another rival alongside them and Kildare very much fit the bill and McEntee’s men will feel they very much owe this Kildare team.

McEntee does of course know what he is up against in Cian O’Neill’s side after Kildare defeated him twice in his opening year in 2017.

It was a reality check of sorts for Meath as firstly Kildare stormed to Pairc Tailteann and took National League points in round 1 when they sauntered to a 3-17 to 0-16 victory with Ben McCormack announcing himself on the inter-county stage with a goal after less than twenty seconds before Niall Kelly added a second half brace to give his side a comprehensive victory.

The trick was then repeated later that Summer on a baking hot day in Tullamore with Kildare’s extra pace and power again proving too much in the Leinster Semi-Final with the Johnstownbridge duo of Daniel Flynn and Cathal McNally causing chaos in a nine point victory.

Its worth noting though that only McCormack of that quartet will be available as Flynn and Kelly aren’t on the panel while McNally is in a race to be fit for the Championship.

In saying that there are still ten players from that game against Meath that will take to the field and despite the absence of Paul Cribbin, Kevin Flynn, David Slattery and Chris Healy it’s still a formidable team on paper.

It’s still only guesswork though as Kildare only really found their groove in the Clare game and while Meath have won three of their four game’s the ultimate test will come today.

The trip to Ennis and the home games with Kildare and Fermanagh will tell us a lot more about where they are going while Kildare still have to go away to Donegal so it’s still very much on the line.

With four or five teams still very much in the hunt the result in today’s game is going to play a huge role in deciding the final standings.

The winner will gain huge belief and momentum to go and finish the job while the loser will be in desperation territory.

Big time Football in March, nothing like it.

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