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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Mannion can make his mark in another luxurious Leinster ride for Dublin

David Jennings thinks the left-footer can leave Longford reeling in Croke Park

Can anyone stop Dublin lifting the Sam Maguire again?
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Dublin v Longford
Croke Park, 4pm Sunday

Dublin are a clinical side but Paddy Power's points line looks too high at 46.5 points for their Leinster semi-final with Longford. 

Dublin destroyed Wicklow last time with a 4-25 to 1-11 scoreline but don't expect Longford to be so naive defensively. They will fancy their chances of keeping the All-Ireland champions to 30 points or less. 

Longford conceded only 0-14 to a Meath team containing natural scoring forwards Graham Reilly and Donal Lenihan. They conceded an average of 13 points per game in Division 3 of the league and coughed up only five goals in those seven matches. 

They are comfortable with their current style of play, dropping deep as a unit and playing on the counter-attack. 

Dublin will have too much class when it comes to the crunch but it is worth noting that the average points total in their six games during the 2017 All-Ireland campaign was 38.5 and that included their 4-29 to 0-10 rout of Westmeath. 

If Longford can stop Dublin scoring four goals, then it is hard to envisage the 46.5 total points spread being threatened. 

When you have a lop-sided pairing like this, the man of the match market is whittled down considerably as the chances of a Longford player or a Dublin defender getting the gong are remote. 

In last year's landslide win over Westmeath at the same stage Paul Mannion shone brightest, scoring eight points from play and tormenting markers with his pace and guile. 

The sensational performance set the tone for a stunning season which saw him score three points from play against Monaghan and Mayo and earn him a first All-Star. His confidence should be sky high and a huge performance from the stylish left-footer looks in store. 

Recommendations
Under 46.5 points
3pts 5-6 Paddy Power
P Mannion man of the match
1pt 10-1 Betfair, Paddy Power


Laois v Carlow
Croke Park, 2pm Sunday

There could be a fairytale in the appetiser at Croke Park as Carlow go in search of a Leinster final appearance and try to edge a step closer to a first provincial title since 1944, but Laois could spoil that plan. 

Laois seem to have cracked the Carlow code. They have beaten them twice already in 2018, edging them out 1-6 to 0-8 in the group stages of Division 4 and then deservedly dismantling them in the decider by 0-15 to 0-11. 

Laois led 0-10 to 0-5 at half-time and never looked in danger despite a wobble midway through the second half. 

Carlow have improved since, but so too have Laois and the O'Moore County may made more progress. 

They somehow managed to escape unscathed from their Leinster opener with Wexford, showing serious mental strength to come back from a double-figure deficit. 

The way in which Laois walloped Westmeath in the second half of their Leinster quarter-final, winning 4-13 to 1-12, is ample evidence that this is the best Laois side in recent years. 

They have scored six goals in their last two games and, while Carlow are ultra-defensive and will try to contain them, the wide-open spaces of Croke Park ought to present Paul and Donie Kingston, Evan O'Carroll and Ross Munnelly with goal opportunities. 

Neutrals will want Carlow to advance, but Laois are the better side and can prove it for a third time. 

Recommendations 
Laois -1 
2pts Evs bet365
Over Laois 1.5 goals 
2pts 9-4 Ladbrokes


Donegal v Down
Clones, 4pm Sunday

Donegal are 2-5 to be crowned Ulster champions following Monaghan's shock loss to Fermanagh last weekend but their semi-final date with Down may not be as straightforward as the betting suggests. 

Down exploded from the traps in their comfortable victory over Antrim, leading 1-9 to 0-5 at the halfway mark, and they also dug the foundations for victory over Tipperary in the last round of Division 2 in the opening period as they led 1-7 to 0-6 at half-time. 

Donegal were wide-margin winners over Cavan in their own Ulster opener but they were sluggish in the early stages and trailed 1-3 to 0-2 after 14 minutes. Indeed, they should have been seven points down by that stages as Cavan's Padraig Faulkner missed a sitter after being set up by Bryan Magee.

Down probably lack the invention and physicality to dump Donegal out of the Ulster championship but they could give the favourites a scare and look great value to lead at half-time.

Recommendation
Down to lead at half-time
1pt 11-4 general


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Neutrals will want Carlow to advance, but Laois are the better side and can prove it for a third time
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