Conor McGill’s outstanding form and experience of Croke Park could help Ratoath to victory over The Downs next Saturday evening. Photo: GERRY SHANAHAN-WWW.QUIRKE.IE

Leinster SFC Preview: Ratoath to exploit Croke Park’s wide open spaces

It's not often that a group of club players get a chance to turn out at Croke Park in a game that has a lot weighing on it. The players from Ratoath have that opportunity now - and they can mark the occasion with a win.

Having already made one major breakthrough in the Leinster Club SFC by defeating Rhode in round one, Ratoath will be looking to chalk up another significant success when they face The Downs in the semi-final on Saturday, 5.15pm.

Some of the Ratoath players are familiar with the demands of playing in Croke Park with Meath including Eamon Wallace, Conor McGill and Bryan McMahon.

Such experience could be extremely important in helping Ratoath find an extra edge against the Westmeath champions who underlined just how formidable they will be by defeating St Mary's of Ardee in their quarter-final encounter at Mullingar. It wasn't so much that The Downs won it was the way they did it, carving out a comprehensive 1-17 to 0-12 victory.

Adding an extra dimension to the occasion is the fact that The Downs are managed by Lar Wall, who knows Meath football inside out. He was manager of the Gaeil Colmcille team that looked to be on their way to victory in the 2019 Meath SFC final only to be caught by a Joey Wallace goal deep into stoppage time. It was a shattering way for Gaeil Colmcille to lose out on the big prize.

Ratoath showed an impressive, potent cocktail of mental and physical strengths in their game against Rhode, seasoned campaigners at provincial level. Once again, the pacy Ratoath forward division looked threatening, particularly in the second-half when they had a regular supply of ball. The talent and workrate of players such as McMahon, Daithi McGowan, Bobby O'Brien, McMahon, Jack Flynn, Cian O'Brien is sure to cause plenty of headaches for the The Downs defence particularly in the wide open space of Croke Park.

The Downs are sure to present a very stern test of Ratoath's capabilities. They have players such a Luke Loughlin and Kevin O'Sullivan who between them scored 1-6 against St Mary's. Andrew Kilmartin is another who will have to be watched very closely.

The fact The Downs racked up 1-17 against St Mary's is a stark warning for the Ratoath defence. They will have to be on red alert. Still, Ratoath have the pace and the wherewithal to mark their appearance in Croke Park with a victory - and add another notable triumph to what is turning out to be truly memorable, eventful year for them.