Meath 1-14 DCU 1-14: Meath will have key attackers Stephen Bray and Mickey Newman available for their O’Byrne Cup clash with Dublin.
Saturday’s stalemate in Navan secured top spot in Group C for Meath and a semi-final with Dublin back at Páirc Tailteann next weekend.
It’s a repeat of the last three Leinster finals, all of which Dublin have won.
They will at least have home advantage and the availability of key players to bolster their young panel.
Boss Mick O’Dowd confirmed that experienced defender Davy Dalton will also be back for the last four tie. But he rejected the suggestion that beating Dublin to lay down a psychological marker for the year ahead is important.
“Ah no, it’s good preparation for playing Galway in the first round of the National League, that’s the big focus,” said O’Dowd.
“A test against Dublin, for fellas that haven’t played much for Meath, is a great thing.
“It’s an important year for us. If you look at the age profile of the squad, Donal Keogan is our captain and he’s only 24. The average age might actually be 23. So in my view the best is yet to come from this bunch.”
O’Dowd revealed that cruciate knee ligament victims Eamonn Wallace and Conor Gillespie will be back in action in February and March respectively.
But he had worrying news about last year’s skipper Kevin Reilly and midfielder Shane O’Rourke who are both troubled by hip problems.
“The two of them, in our eyes, are long-term injury concerns that are just working on their rehab,” said O’Dowd. “There’s no date on their returns.”
A draw on Saturday evening in Navan was enough for Meath to claim top spot in their group with five points and progression to the semi-finals.
David Bray’s second minute goal helped them to a 1-7 to 0-6 half-time lead. But they were wasteful in attack with 13 wides overall and DCU took advantage.
The 2012 champions moved 1-13 to 1-10 clear after Galway midfielder Tom Flynn’s 56th minute point.
But four Meath points in a row from Bryan Menton, Nicky Judge, the excellent Graham Reilly and Mark O’Sullivan left DCU requiring a 68th minute equaliser from Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor.
Former Meath manager Sean Boylan was part of DCU’s management team. The four-time All-Ireland winning manager was one of manager Niall Moyna’s selectors and took a seat in the opposing dugout to his native county.
Scorers for Meath: D Bray (1-2), M O’Sullivan (0-5, five frees), G Reilly (0-3), D Tobin, J Wallace, B Menton and N Judge (0-1 each).
Scorers for DCU: C McHugh (0-7, five frees), C McGraynor (1-0), D Byrne (0-2), N Murphy, D Smith, E O’Connor, T Flynn and D O’Connor (0-1 each).
MEATH: P O’Rourke; D Tobin, C McGill, M Burke; C McConnell, D Keogan, S Melia; H Rooney, A Flanagan; G Reilly, M O’Sullivan, A Tormey; D Carroll, D Bray, J Wallace.
Subs: N Judge for Melia, B Menton for Rooney and S Mattimoe for Carroll (all h/t), J Queeney for Bray (56), S Carty for McConnell (62), R O’Dowd for O’Sullivan (68).
DCU: R O’Flaherty; J Smith, D Wrynn, D Byrne; J Bealin, C Moynagh, C Begley; T Flynn, E O’Connor; E Smith, C Meredith, D O’Connor; C McHugh, N Murphy, D Smith.
Subs: C McGraynor for D Smith (h/t), R Connor for Murphy (54), C Daly for Connor (66, b/c), B Donnelly for Flynn (68).
Referee: S Johnson (Louth).
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