Monday 24 October 2016

Dublin's highest flyer must go extra mile

Kilkenny to commute from Donegal Gaeltacht for training ahead of the All-Ireland SFC Final

Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny catches the ball ahead of Kerry’s Paul Murphy and David Moran during Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Pics: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny catches the ball ahead of Kerry’s Paul Murphy and David Moran during Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Pics: Sportsfile

It's definitely a different way of putting down time between training sessions in the build up to an All-Ireland final but Ciarán Kilkenny is satisfied that his looming trip to North West Donegal will pose "no problem" to his preparations.

"I knew coming into the game that it would be a possible distraction if we won," he told The Herald of his expected 10-day stint in Gaoth Dobhair as part of his Masters in Educations, which begins next Thursday.

"It will be good craic. And there's an airport there right beside Gaoth Dobhair and the flights are cheap enough so I'll probably fly back for training.

"That will probably be the best way around it. It's (the airport) is only 10 minutes away from where I'm actually staying as well so it will be perfect.

"I won't be doing much on the weekends so I'll be able to come home. It shouldn't be a problem at all now," he reckons.


"I might decline doing the 'aul Irish dancing in case I get injured! Ah, but it'll be nice to get away.

Kilkenny is satisfied that his schedule won't force him to miss a single training session.

Donegal airport is less than 13km from Gaoth Dobhair. Flights are daily and the trip takes less than an hour.

And anyway, Kilkenny says from experience, it can difficult to kill the days until an All-Ireland final, while trying to remain detached from the public and their opinions on the same subject.

"I like having a routine the week before a game," Kilkenny explains.

"But it's important that you're not lying around on the couch too much.

"You have to go and do things. I know Goath Dobhair is a mad footballing place but it's all about teaching and the language so there won't be much talk about football."

Kilkenny notes that "for every player, you're always thinking football. But it's important to do other things. To take your mind off it."

He recalls his first decider in 2013 when, at 19 years of age, the buzz was addictive.

"It was a great experience. And it's really stood to me now. Lucky enough, I'm 23 and this will be my third All-Ireland final and I've played in them underage, so I know the craic.

"It's just about keeping yourself occupied. Going for a swim. Meeting up with lads. Having the craic with people.

"Because as soon as it comes to the match day, you're in the same routine. It's going to be another game of football."

Last Sunday in Croke Park was not, however, just another game of football.

For the second time in three years, Dublin beat Kerry in an all-time semi-final classic.

Kilkenny says he "absolutely, one hundred per cent" got a sense of the epic nature of the game whilst in the middle of it.

"When Eoghan (O'Gara) came on and got that score - it was so inspirational," Kilkenny recalls." Your blood is absolutely pumping."

The win and it's nature, he feels "shows the great determination and mental strength, I suppose, that our lads have.

"It was amazing," he continued. "It was actually a special game to be involved in."

As expected, Kilkenny played much of the second half as a sort of play-making wing-back and if it seems as though he's moving further and further away from the opposition's goal the older he gets, his enthusiasm for the role is clear.

"I love playing in defence. I get a great thrill out of it. Half-forward, half-back and midfield, they're all nearly the same role," he pointed out.

"You're in the thick of things."

Four years ago, Kilkenny left for Australia and the life of an Aussie Rules pro. Now, he's about to begin preparations - awkward though they might be - for a third All-Ireland final.

"I'm firmly happy with my decision," he admits. "But it's not even about being successful. The thing that kind of reiterated that I made the right decision, is the bond that you have with the lads on the team.

"It's such a special bond. Lads from different clubs in the county…how well we get on," Kilkenny concludes.

"We would literally do anything for each other."

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