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Kavanagh cuts Kilmacud losses

Longford ace rues absentees but is sure Crokes are ready for RhodeFOR Kilmacud Crokes, it's a case of don't mention the war-wounded as they set sail for Portlaoise this Sunday and their refixed Leinster final clash with Rhode.

Prior to each match of their Leinster campaign thus far, an absentee rollcall featuring a veritable 'who's who?' of Dublin football is read out and yet still they defy their absences to grit and grind their way to victories.

This week, Rory O'Carroll joined Paul Griffin, Darren Magee and Mark Davoren in the injured dock while Niall Corkery is in England for the foreseeable future and unavailable for Paddy Carr's men.

Yet it seems the only people unphased by the collection of talent in their sick bay are the Crokes players themselves.

"People are harping on all year about injuries and they are big losses, the likes of Darren, Paul and Mark Davoren," says Brian Kavanagh, who thankfully for Crokes, is fully fit and available for Sunday's showdown.

"Then you have the likes of Niall Corkery and now Rory O'Carroll. There's five Dublin footballers who are gone. And it is sad and they are hugely missed but we're not feeling sorry for ourselves. We're not going to sit around and make excuses and say 'we were missing the boys'. We're just going out to win it and if we're good enough, we will and if we're not -- so be it. Fair play to the other team."

Still, Crokes have surprised most with their unerring progress through the tricky terrain of the Dublin SFC and just prior to Christmas, in Leinster.

Beating St Vincent's and St Brigid's in such impressive fashion in the county semi-final and final respectively fuelled their ambition and victory over Portlaoise and Garrycastle in the provincial competition fed the belief that this current side -- depleted though it is -- could replicate the feats of the All-Ireland-winning team of 2009.

"Not that we over-achieved, but we out-did the expectations of others of us from the beginning of the year and there hasn't been as much pressure this year to succeed and that probably has helped us," says Kavanagh. "It's like every game is a bonus and that's the way we've treated it.

"The further we go the better it is. We're not burdened by being All- Ireland champions two years ago. It's a totally different team and a totally different style we're playing."

Given his brilliant form in this campaign, Kavanagh will no doubt occupy the minds of the Rhode thinktank between now and Sunday though they have, in Niall McNamee, another of Leinster's marquee forwards.

Kavanagh played against the Ireland International Rules cap at underage level and know what to expect come Sunday. "He has massive qualities," he says.

"He has a laid back style of play. He has been very good all up through the years. He has left and right feet, he's a tall guy -- well over six foot. He's strong. He's not a one-dimensional footballer really.

"He has so many strings to his bow that he is very hard to stop. It's up to us out the field to stop quality ball going into him. But there's Paschal Kellaghan and Anton Sullivan in there and we just have to make sure the ball is going in the opposite direction more often than not."

Regarding Sunday's match, Kavanagh sees it as an end in itself rather than merely a gateway into the All-Ireland series.

Their original priority, he insists, was recapturing the Dublin championship yet their recent success meant they weren't too long about re-calibrating their goals.

"Dublin is huge for us," he adds. "But your ambitions change quite quickly.

"Like, if we were to win another Leinster title, that would be two in three years and you would be building a bit of a legacy there.

"But Sunday is the one," he warns. "We're not looking past that."