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Allianz League Final Preview: Murphy The Man To Manhandle Meath

michael murphy

The Allianz Football League Division 2 Final throws up plenty of questions in what is possibly the most intriguing of all the finals taking place this weekend.

Meath head into the game safe in the knowledge that top-tier status is secured for 2020 but they’ve gone six from seven en route to the final with their only loss coming against Donegal, so you can be sure that no stone will be left unturned in search of victory this weekend.

Andy McEntee’s men have really blazed a trail through a notoriously tough division. Given the seven games, two points system that operates in the league, the fact that they have sat atop of Division 2 since the third round is a testament to how well they have played.

Meath have been consistent in their scoring tally throughout the league campaign, only once failing to score more than ten points, but it’s their ability to get goals that stand out with eight so far to their name.

The return of Mickey Newman to the team has been instrumental, he’s been a constant threat throughout and has chipped in with 1-28. While Newman may be somewhat of an ‘old’ head, a new face in Barry Dardis has also stood up for Meath netting some big goals for the Royal County.

Goals win games and Meath will need them on Saturday if they are to claim victory.

While the Royals may have driven straight into a league final, Donegal have a had a few twists and turns along the way.

Fancied by many to win promotion considering they are viewed as one of the top teams in the country and were unfortunate to get relegated last season, Donegal have struggled at times in part to do with not having their Gaoth Dobhair contingent as well as being hampered by some other injuries.

shane mcentee
In attendance at the 2019 Allianz Football League Finals preview are Shane McEntee of Meath, right, and Stephen McMenamin of Donegal at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

They started the league well with wins over Clare and Meath before seeing their hopes of promotion take a huge hit following consecutive defeats to Tipperary and Fermanagh, who were chasing promotion themselves. However, Donegal finished strong winning their final three games by an accumulation of 21-points to set-up Saturday’s meeting with Meath.

The turning point for Donegal was the return of talisman Michael Murphy against Armagh. Heading into the game, both teams promotion hopes hung in the balance with defeat for either side effectively ruling them out. Donegal started poorly before bringing Murphy on as a substitute after just 20 minutes.

The Glenswilly man changed the game, setting up their first score from play in his first involvement before scoring a goal with one of the final plays of the first half. Donegal would go on to win the game by one with Murphy scoring 1-2 from play on a night where they only managed 1-3.

It sparked a Donegal revival and Murphy has been instrumental to it. Another towering performance on the edge of the square against Cork followed before the Tir Conaill men hammered Kildare in the final round.

Donegal’s captain will ultimately prove the difference between the two sides on the day.

For Meath, the real test lies in the year ahead and next year’s league campaign. For Donegal, a successful league campaign is winning Division 2 outright.

They have the experience of both big games and playing in Croke Park and in Michael Murphy being deployed at full forward, they have arguably the best ’14’ in the game leading them.

Donegal 1-18 Meath 2-11

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