Kilmacud Crokes have drawn heavily from the side that won the 2015 Under-21 football championship

KILMACUD Crokes manager Gabriel Bannigan is looking forward to his side’s AFL division 1 opener against Na Fianna this weekend as he hopes to blood yet more youngsters from their successful Under-21 set-up.
Bannigan is entering his third season in charge of the team and says that they are successfully blending in some of their hugely talented new stars to make a push for silverware.
“We have a very young squad,” he told GazetteSport. “In 2015, my first season in charge, we probably had one of the oldest squads in Dublin senior football – we would have had an average age of probably late 20s so we had quite a transition from 2015 to 2016.
“We brought through a lot of the talent from the 2015 Under-21 championship winning team and bringing that talent through was by design. By a combination of that design and also by necessity, 11 of that Under-21 team ended up playing in the championship win over Ballyboden St Enda’s last year.”
Despite going through a spell of transition last year, Crokes finished second in the table behind St Vincent’s and narrowly lost out to eventual winners Ballyboden in the semi-finals.
They also reached the quarter-finals of the championship before exiting at the hands of St Jude’s.
“2016 was about bedding in those lads so we were certainly a team in transition but we had a very fruitful league campaign and went on to win another Under-21 championship.
“Looking ahead to this season, we have brought a few more lads in from last year’s Under-21 team and we’ve lost a couple of players.”
Midfielder David Campbell has left the panel to reside in the United States for a year while Eugene Keating transferred back to his home club in Cavan. Dan O’Brien, Ben Shovlin and Conor Kelly are the three players who have made the move up from the Under-21s.
“We’ve lost a bit more experience but we’ve brought a few young lads in so we are hoping to build on what we did last year. We want to use the league to give more game time and experience to developing the young lads for the championship.
“Of course, we want to win every game we play but what is even more important than the results, is what we are trying to do in terms of developing a team for the championship. We also have a few niggly injuries that we are trying to clear up but nothing too serious.
“It is a tough opener against Na Fianna, the same one we’ve had the last two seasons. We managed to win the previous two but they are a really good young side as well.
“They are probably a couple of years ahead of us in terms of maturity and they have a new manager so I will be expecting them to come out all guns blazing. Our lads will have to be ready for that.”

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