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Keep faith with U-21 set-up: Crozier

Declan Bogue

Derry Under-21 manager Paddy Crozier has defended the role the grade plays in developing Gaelic football, despite the criticism it has shipped since GAA Congress and fears of player-burn-out.

His side meet Cavan tomorrow night, who are seeking four consecutive Ulster titles, in Celtic Park and his previous involvement in the Derry Under-21 teams of 2006-08 convinced him that it is a vital grade of football.

"I was in charge then and we got to two finals," he said. "Unfortunately we were beaten in both of them but we got a fair few players from that, that would be senior players today."

Among those players he refers to includes integral performers such as Sean Leo McGoldrick, Enda Lynn and James Kielt.

"Although we didn't win many trophies we still got players through," Crozier added.

He continued: "I don't think you could scrap this Under-21 competition.

"This is a step to seniors and you can't do it.

"As far as burnout is concerned you just have to communicate with different managers and different schools.

"There's St Pat's Maghera and this year and last year we haven't touched any of the St Pat's players, there are maybe two or three that would be available for the under-21s because they are 18-and-a-half but they are developing in a different direction and we will let them get on with it."

Derry did not enter the Shamrock Cup, which a few Ulster counties did as a warm-up for this series, as they had so many players involved in other teams.

Crozier added that tomorrow will be the first time he has been able to assemble all his players together.

He said: "Once players go to the universities in September they start preparing for the Ryan Cup and Sigerson Cup, Freshers Cups and then your club could be involved in an Ulster minor club competition – which is a great competition, but then there is club Championships, so it is very hard to pull them all together."

Crozier has named Brian Óg McGilligan, son of Brian senior who was at midfield for Derry's All-Ireland triumph in 1993, as his captain.

It crowns a magnificent recovery by the player who has had cruciate ligament injury followed by a complete reconstruction of his knee.

One of Crozier's selectors, Charlie O'Kane brought him into a conversation in October 2012 in relation to the county senior team.

Since then, he has been recuperating under the guidance of the county senior medical and back-up team.

Draw: Tomorrow: Celtic Park, 8pm Derry v Cavan (winners face Tyrone, March 19); Wednesday, March 19, 8pm: Donegal v Fermanagh; Armagh v Antrim; Monaghan v Down.

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