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Kilmacud already fully focused on first Leinster battle

Crokes boss Brennan facing former clubmates in Navan

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Paul Mannion of Kilmacud Crokes celebrates at the final whistle of their Dublin SFC final victory over St Jude’s at Parnell Park.

Paul Mannion of Kilmacud Crokes celebrates at the final whistle of their Dublin SFC final victory over St Jude’s at Parnell Park.

Paul Mannion of Kilmacud Crokes celebrates at the final whistle of their Dublin SFC final victory over St Jude’s at Parnell Park.

There's a couple of interesting sub-plots in Navan tomorrow.

Robbie Brennan, the joint Kilmacud Crokes manager with Johnny Magee under whom the club finally re-scaled the Dublin SFC pedestal last month, played and managed their opponents today, St Peter's Dunboyne, from the time he transferred there in 2002.

What's more, on the only two other occasions St Peter's have won the Meath SFC in 1998 and 2005, they have played - and lost to - Kilmacud Crokes in Leinster, with Brennan playing in the Crokes team alongside Magee in 1998 but against them for Dunboyne in 2005.

On the St Peter's side, meanwhile, is Robbie McCarthy, the former St Peregrine's forward, who started on Jim Gavin's 2010 Dublin All-Ireland winning team alongside Crokes men Rory O'Carroll, Eoin Culligan and Barry O'Rorke, although none of those three were part of their county final-winning panel.

McCarthy, a big, sweet ball-striking inside forward, will line out in an attack with Stuart Lowndes who like McCarthy, joined St Peter's in 2016.

Lowndes is a brother of Dublin senior panellist Eric and previously made an appearance in the O'Byrne Cup under Jim Gavin in 2015.

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Donal Lenihan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile.

Donal Lenihan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile.

Donal Lenihan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile.

Departed

His transfer to Meath seemed to be completed and he was named in Andy McEntee's initial panel, but so far he has yet to line out for the Royals.

One man who has become the focal point of the Meath attack, however, is Donal Lenihan - brother of Blackburn Rovers and Republic of Ireland senior international, Darragh.

Lenihan was Meath's free-taker this year too and he did the early scoring in St Peter's opening Leinster victory against Wexford's Shelmaliers two weeks ago.

He has since departed on an extended holiday, however, depriving the Meath champions of the county's most established inside forward.

This competition hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Meath teams.

Indeed, their record since the competition's inception has been chronic.

In the past 15 years, only one team from the county has even managed to make a final.

Walterstown remain the only club to win a Leinster title.

And despite being worthy winners after a couple of years of incremental progress, St Peter's aren't the sort of habitual county champions already primed for provincial success before they've finished celebrating their Keegan Cup win - particularly without their best forward.

Crokes, on the other hand, have a couple of men still standing from their All-Ireland club win in 2009.

It might have been eight years since their last county title but neither their co-manager, Magee, nor co-captain, Cian O'Sullivan, had managed to make it to the dressing-rooms in Parnell Park after they had beaten St Jude's in the final without bringing up their next step in Leinster.

Both unprompted.

All the talk the following day was rightly about Paul Mannion but this Crokes team aren't without their charms elsewhere.

In defence, Cian O'Sullivan and Cian O'Connor were immense in a unit that also featured Liam Flatman, a player who did his Leaving Cert this summer.

Both Andrew and Cian McGowan were solid and disciplined in their tackling against St Jude's two Mondays back also.

And as a collective, they went an entire Dublin SFC campaign coming out of the recognised 'Group of Death' conceding just a single goal - an unstoppable effort from Ballyboden St Enda's James Madden.

As for Mannion - who is carrying a knock currently but is expected to be available tomorrow - Jude's never laid a glove on him all night.

This is a player who looks physically a cut above even in the hard-hitting, breakneck inter-county exchanges.

At this level, he is too quick for a man of his strength and vice versa for most teams to handle.

And while he wrote his own headlines and hogged the match reports, the performance of Calum Pearson - the next of Crokes' production line of outstanding forwards - was hugely encouraging.

The last time Crokes went to an All-Ireland final, O'Sullivan, Mark Davoren and both Rory and Ross O'Carroll were drafted straight into Pat Gilroy's Dublin squad on the back of their club performances.

Crokes are a long way off that now but a decent run here and Pearson, O'Connor and perhaps Shane Cunningham could push themselves towards the Dublin setup.

Dublin's run of five consecutive titles in the Leinster club SFC was broken last year when St Vincent's went down to Rathnew in Aughrim and Moorefield nipped in to beat St Loman's in the provincial final.

Grounded

But there is none of the competitive weariness that seemed to beset Vincent's last year about this Crokes team.

They were already displaying energy for this new pursuit minutes after winning Dublin and they have enough experience to ensure all their youthful players stay grounded in the present.

St Peter's conceded just three goals in their eight Meath SFC games and none in the knock-outs stages and have in McCarthy a free-taker of high accuracy and significant range.

So they're dangerous, particularly in Navan.

But they won't have faced a team anywhere near as athletic or skilled in every line of the team as this Kilmacud Crokes group are.

ODDS: St. Peter's 7/2, Draw 10/1, Kilmacud Crokes 1/4

VERDICT: Kilmacud Crokes

  • LEINSTER CLUB SFC QF, St Peter's v Kilmacud, Navan (Tomorrow, 1.30)

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