Crokes’ youthful outlook

by Gazette Reporter

WITH near rivals Ballyboden St Enda’s landing a Dublin and Leinster double in recent months, the football fans at Kilmacud Crokes may be looking on and pining for similar success.
It’s now five years since a county or provincial football crown came through the doors of Glenalbyn, which is the longest the club have gone without such championship success since the early 1990s.
An AFL1 final defeat to Vincent’s meant this campaign ended on a damp note on the senior front but just a week later positivity returned as the club’s Under-21s beat Vincent’s in their county championship final.
Gabriel Bannigan, manager of both the senior football team and the Under-21s spoke to GazetteSport following that win and suggested that, at a time when some players are set to step-down from senior football, the time is now for these Under-21s to step up.
“In 2015, we had a lot of players over the age of 30 in the squad so, naturally, you would expect to lose a number of those,” said the Crokes boss. “Over the coming weeks, we will find out what lads will be stepping down from club football and then one or two might drop down a level.
“So, at a time when I expect to lose quite a few of the more experienced heads, it’s great to be able to have such a talented and promising Under-21 squad to work with and try out some players who will no doubt lead the team in years to come.
“In the 2015 season, we had nine players from our Under-21s who were also on the senior panel. Five or six more from this season’s Under-21s will make the step up and join the senior panel too. That means half of our senior squad next year will be made up of Under-21 players,” added Bannigan.
Offering experience to fresh talent is always a worthwhile exercise but the Crokes boss will want results from his willingness to give youth a chance. “I think it’s important for the younger lads that will be given a chance to know that they have to seize it,” he said.
“There’s no point breaking into senior football just for the sake of it. The older players at Crokes have achieved great things over the years and it’s up to these new players to emulate that and push on.”
The Stillorgan side’s championship hopes this season were ended by Boden who have gone on to achieve such heights and will contest on a national scale in the New Year.
“We still have regrets about that game against Boden,” said Bannigan.
“It was a game we could have easily won; we had our chances but didn’t take them. They’ve gone on to show their quality and fair play to them.”

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