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Kavanagh feels huge strength in depth can lift Kilmacud to glory

EYES glaze over when a footballer or hurler starts waxing lyrical about the 'strength in depth' in the panel, but in the case of Kilmacud Crokes, it's quite obviously true.

Brian Kavanagh reports that the last in-house, 15-on-15 game in training before tomorrow's Dublin SFC final against St Brigid's at Parnell Park, was intense stuff.

It couldn't be any other way, a quick glance at the Crokes team sheet shows that they sprang Ray Cosgrove and Mark Vaughan from the bench towards the end of their semi-final win over St Vincent's.

"That's what makes training so good, no one can rest on their laurels," says Kavanagh. "We have Mark Coughlan and Eoin Culligan, who won U-21 medals with Dublin in there, too. Liam McBarron, who played with Fermanagh, is also there. That's why everyone is on their toes, no one can afford to take it easy in training because there is someone there to take your place."

This year hasn't been too kind to the Longford man, who missed huge chunks of the season through injury. He broke two bones in his right foot and just started to find his form before breaking his left ankle, with the two injuries ruling him out for around six months. But there have been sure signs he is getting back to top form and it could hardly have come at a better time.

The Kilmacud injury list would hamper most county panels with Paul Griffin, Darren Magee, Mark Davoren and Kevin Nolan all unavailable to Paddy Carr, but even with those absentees, Crokes are clear favourites at 2/5. And these odds come despite St Brigid's producing an excellent performance against St Oliver Plunkett/Eoghan Ruadh in the semi-final, where they held a forward line that included Alan and Bernard Brogan and Jason Sherlock to just five points in 60 minutes of football.

"They are a superb team. That performance in the semi-final was excellent," says Kavanagh. "Gerry McEntee has them so well drilled and they know exactly what they are about, and Paddy Andrews and Kevin Bonner are in good form. They probably raised the bar in this year's championship because no one has matched what they did in that game."

If McEntee could pull off an upset, it would round off a nice treble for his native Nobber club in Meath. The north county outfit were promoted to senior ranks in recent weeks, while another club man, Dudley Farrell, guided Kingscourt Stars to the Cavan senior title.

Standing in his way are Kilmacud Crokes and their galaxy of stars, but even with their resources, the injuries have forced the favourites to alter their style.

"I suppose in 2008, we were more about power, particularly around the middle of the field. Now Darren (Magee) isn't there, so we've changed it a little bit. We're trying to move the ball quicker and not bring it into contact as much."

They were in control for much of the semi-final before a late Vincent's rally. Kavanagh admits the final whistle came just in time.

"We were totally outplayed in the last 15 minutes. Vincent's were All-Ireland champions a few years ago and we expected that backlash, but the whistle came at the right time. If it had gone on for a few more minutes, who knows what would have happened."

Irish Independent