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Thursday 17 August 2017

Ciaran jumps to the task for Dublin

Kilkenny's week: Breach Donegal wall, an essay on Stalin, now Ros!

Ciarán Kilkenny in action for Dublin against Donegal’s Anthony Thompson, at Croke Park on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciarán Kilkenny in action for Dublin against Donegal’s Anthony Thompson, at Croke Park on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

Ask Ciarán Kilkenny about trying to break down Donegal's 15-man defensive wall last weekend, and you soon realise the Dublin forward views this as a challenge to be enjoyed rather than endured.

You want to know about oppression? Try Stalin!

"I've a history essay due for this week, it's on Stalin's economic policy, so I have to lash into that," he told The Herald yesterday. "I'm trying to rustle up 3,000 words on him here now ... tough going."

These are busy times for the St Patrick's Drumcondra student, approaching the final weeks of his primary arts degree while pursuing the Gaelic football equivalent of a Masters (four league titles on the trot) and a Doctorate (back-to-back All-Ireland titles).

Dublin's insatiable drive under Jim Gavin shows no sign of waning: the six-point win over Donegal was their sixth consecutive victory, which means another NFL semi-final beckons come what may in Roscommon this Sunday. "If you said at the start of the year that after six games we'd have 12 points, you'd definitely have taken that," says Kilkenny.

Excited

But is it really fun, as an All Star forward, to be facing teams who set up so defensively? "We're just excited with the challenge of breaking it down," he insists. "There's nothing we can do with how they set up, we can just play the way we want to play, and that's an expansive brand of football.

"It's about your game intelligence. It's about having patience when you're on the ball, making the right decision and waiting for the right opportunity to arise … and I thought that we did that very well the other day.

"In our mindsets as players, we just do whatever it takes to win and if that takes being extra-patient on the ball or whatever, then that's what we have to do to kill out the game.

"And I love the challenge of playing against Donegal - they're a great side."

And now for Hyde Park. By week's end he'll have heard all the wise cracks about leaving his moulded boots behind and bringing a snorkel instead; he had hoped to watch Roscommon/Mayo on the box but his TG4 signal went on the blink.

Yet he knows plenty about Ros, having shared a St Pat's dressing-room with the likes of Senan Kilbride, Diarmuid Murtagh and Ronan Daly. Never mind the reality check just dispensed by Mayo, he still views them as a very fit, skilful and energetic rival.

Speaking of Pat's, his next step may involve a post-graduate path into teaching. "I'd love to teach Irish in primary schools," he relates. "I'd love to embed the passions that I was taught in primary school - whether it was sport or the Irish language or the history and culture we have."

It's a long way from his brief flirtation with professional sport. Kilkenny cut short his fledgling Aussie Rules career in January 2013; but can he understand the lure of a different life experience overseas that has seen Dublin lose Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey?

Experience

"I can only really speak for myself. When I went out to Australia, I was 18; my dad just really encouraged me to experience it and see if I liked it," Kilkenny recounts.

"To be involved with the group in Dublin is amazing. The craic when you go training ... the five or ten minutes after games when you're successful is brilliant ... the special connection that we have with each other. I personally love playing with the lads.

"I got injured for a year then as well (in 2014), and I got to explore and do different things, I got to go to Zambia.

"All I can really do is wish the lads the best of luck in their travels. The good thing is that we've such a strong panel, other lads are really stepping up to the plate now and performing in their absence."

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