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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Kilkenny: You must be patient with ball and use it wisely

Dublin's star forward praises 'great head' on young pretender O'Callaghan and recalls being 'devastated' after Leinster loss in 2004

Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny was pictured at the All-Ireland Senior Championship Series National launch at The Argory in Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny was pictured at the All-Ireland Senior Championship Series National launch at The Argory in Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile

It wasn't long ago that Dublin's paucity of high class forwards was considered their primary shortcoming and mourned as the reason they couldn't quite cut it at All-Ireland level.

Now, they're being asked to appraise each other.

"He's a very, level-headed young man," says Ciarán Kilkenny, Dublin's last attacking prodigy about their newest one, Con O'Callaghan.

"He's eager, he's driven. And he's willing to work really hard as well.

"That just shows that character of the young man. He doesn't need much advice from me now. He just has a great head about him."

In attendance during the 2017 GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Series National Launch at The Argory are, from left, Ronan McNamee of Tyrone, Killian Young of Kerry, Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin, and Ciaran Murtagh of Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
In attendance during the 2017 GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Series National Launch at The Argory are, from left, Ronan McNamee of Tyrone, Killian Young of Kerry, Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin, and Ciaran Murtagh of Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile

The two have comparable characteristics, then.

Both started life as powerful, ball-winning, prolific inside forwards in the primary underage grades.

Both also displayed persuasive signs of having the right materials to thrive as inter-county hurlers before Jim Gavin converted each, at least for the moment, into prolific half-forwards.

"He knows what it's about," confirms Kilkenny.

"He's similar enough in that he's played so many hurling and football games for club, county, college that he has that experience.

"He knows how the game flows. And he's adapted to it really well. He's a very strong player."

Together, they combined to devastating affect in the half-forward line last Sunday in Croke Park, an area of the pitch where Alan Brogan's retirement, Diarmuid Connolly's suspension and Paul Flynn's injury were supposed to conspire to thoroughly dilute Dublin's potency.

As it happened, none of the forwards who started the 2011 All-Ireland final began last Sunday's Leinster final and the chosen Dublin named attack bore just one All Star, Dean Rock.

Yet if anything, Dublin's dominance in their province has hardened in this period of transitioning from that breakthrough team and the generation from which Kilkenny and O'Callaghan hail.

For his part, Kilkenny is eager to point out that it wasn't always so.

"It's important to recognise that and recognise where we are at the moment then as well," he says, recalling feeling "devastated" as an 11-year-old in Croke Park at the final whistle of Dublin's 2004 defeat to Westmeath.

"I remember vividly the Special Olympics music. I remember hearing that music loads around then and me being devastated.

"All them lads out on the field and Stephen (Cluxton), they all would have been my heroes and inspired me to go on and play for Dublin," he explains.

"I wanted to emulate them and I went on… you went out dreaming of playing for Dublin and dreaming of playing with these lads and pretending to be these lads and you just remember them years.

"It wasn't that long ago. The window where you do play Gaelic football is very short in terms of it's flown by for me.

"I'm nearly in my mid-20s so we just have to appreciate it as much as we can and try and perform and play as good as you can for as long as you can I suppose."

The only season Kilkenny has missed out through injury, 2014, ended without a Dublin All-Ireland, so it feels like he has missed out on very little in a still rapidly evolving inter-county career.

This time last year, he was being praised for the number of touches he was having in matches and derided for the simplicity of his passes in equal measure.

He spent much of last summer operating in Dublin's half-back line yet this summer has seen a more advanced posting for the most part - evidence of which lies in his output.

Kilkenny scored 0-4 in last year's Leinster SFC compared to 1-8 this year, notably ending his goalscoring drought against Westmeath three weeks back.

"My Dad actually was devastated," Kilkenny revealed, "because it was his 30th anniversary with my Mam to be married so they were away in South Africa on a safari so he couldn't actually watch the game.

"So my Dad was devastated that he was away for the game.

"Mossy (Quinn) and Alan Brogan were texting me afterwards slagging me saying: 'About fecking time you got a goal' or whatever, messing.

"Just a bit of craic like and a bit of slagging in the dressing room. It was nice to score a goal, a good buzz.

"Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity and if it does open up then fair enough you go for it," Kilkenny expands on his more prosaic movements in 2016.

"But you just have to be patient with the ball and my philosophy is to get the ball to the best man in the best position every time.

"There's no point in me running down and three lads surrounding me, dispossessing me and getting a turnover.

"If I see someone else in a better position I think it's very important to get them on the ball and if that's going indirect then that's fair enough.

"At any given moment, what's best for the team - that's what I'm willing to do," Kilkenny adds, "and if that's going direct or indirect that's what I'm going to do."

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