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Kilduff was Dundalk's Europa League hero in the win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv last season.
Kilduff was Dundalk's Europa League hero in the win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv last season.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

'It’s nice to be able to say to my girlfriend ‘listen, let’s head out to Florida for a year-and-a-half''

Ex-Dundalk striker Ciaran Kilduff says the opportunity to join Jacksonville Armada was too good to turn down a second time.
Aug 4th 2017, 7:00 AM 10,832 5

CIARAN KILDUFF IS the latest League of Ireland footballer set to relocate Stateside — and you wouldn’t blame him either.

This past week, it was announced that the Kildare native was leaving reigning Premier Division champions Dundalk to sign for Florida-based NASL side Jacksonville Armada on a full-time 18-month deal.

It’s a decade since the 28-year-old made his debut in senior football with Shamrock Rovers and he has since gone on to represent Kildare County, UCD, Cork City, St Patrick’s Athletic and the Lilywhites.

Kilduff has enjoyed plenty of success — winning the Premier Division, FAI Cup, First Division, Setanta Cup and Leinster Senior Cup — but it was last season’s European adventure that will live longest in the memory.

Although he was more than content at the Louth club, the opportunity to experience a new lifestyle with his girlfriend and two-year-old daughter was too good to turn down a second time.

“I’ve been working with my agent Patrick Conliffe at Full Contact, who has been looking after me for a good few years,” Kilduff explains to The42, when asked how the move came about.

Last year with the Europa League and that, I had a bit of interest from Jacksonville Armada. They made an approach for me back then but I had a year left on my contract at Dundalk so I knocked it on the head.

“Although it did interest me, we were in the middle of that run so I wasn’t looking to go anywhere at that time. I discussed it with Stephen Kenny but it wasn’t going to be feasible.

“Now, they’ve recently brought in a new owner and soccer in America is taking off as they’re investing heavily in it. When they rang me again, I had another chat with Stephen and my contract was coming to an end anyway.

“I told him I wanted to go explore and see what’s out there. It took a bit of toing and froing but Patrick handles these situations well and he’s well able for it. He was telling me how I needed to get out there as the interest may not be there if I waited until the end of the season.

“Thankfully, everything was sorted. I had a great time at Dundalk and am leaving on really good terms. I don’t think there is a player or member of staff that hasn’t touched base with me.”

Stephen Gray and Ciaran Kilduff Kilduff while at Kildare County back in 2008. Source: Margaret McLaughlin/INPHO

Having joined Dundalk from St Pat’s in July 2015, Kilduff enjoyed a dream spell under Stephen Kenny. There were back-to-back league titles and victory in the FAI Cup but he will go down in history for two European goals, in particular.

The Louth club was making its debut in the Europa League group stages last September when the striker came off the bench to claim a point away to AZ Alkmaar.

Two weeks later, he went one better with the winning goal against Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Tallaght Stadium.

“Europe last season was the first time in a long time that a team captured the imagination of the country,” he remembers. “After two rounds in the Europa League group stages, we had four points and at one stage we were beating Zenit St Petersburg, which would have put us on seven points.

I had two great moments and Europe has to be the highlight. I remember joining them from St Pat’s and scoring on my debut — a 1-0 win when the gap at the top was only a point.

“There was relief and it was great for me to know I was part of the group after contributing straight away. That was brilliant because we went on to win the league and the FAI Cup that season.

“I’m sad to be leaving. Sometimes you see fellas who want to get out of their contracts as they’re unhappy but that wasn’t the case. This was more an opportunity that fell on my lap. I’m getting to take my family away to go play football in a growing league on the other side of the world.

“It’s nice to be able to say to my girlfriend ‘listen, let’s head out to Florida for a year-and-a-half and I’ll give it a go’. We’ll be home at Christmas anyway, but it’s a great opportunity to possibly stay out there longer and provide a better life for them. It’s one I couldn’t refuse.”

Zayed Falvey Colin Falvey and Eamon Zayed are both with NASL club Indy Eleven. Source: Twitter/EamonZayed

Several ex-LOI players has made similar switches in recent years and Kilduff called on Richie Ryan — formerly with Jacksonville Armada but now plying his trade at Miami FC — and Indy Eleven striker Eamon Zayed for advice.

I’ve been in the League of Ireland for 10 years and I wasn’t remotely looking for a move,” he says. “I was very happy with Dundalk but there are mainly short-term contracts here and it’s a bit of a merry-go-round.

“This came out of left-field and that’s what interested me as it wasn’t the usual offer. This was a club from from further afield who have researched me and wanted the move to happen.

“Given the part of the world it’s in, it might also be a way for me to combine travel and football. My football is the priority but it offers my family the opportunity of a different lifestyle.

“I chatted to Eamon Zayed this week and the whole way through I’ve been speaking to Richie Ryan, who was at the club I’m joining. He moved on from there to Miami, so I want to enjoy my time at Jacksonville but it could be a chance to push on and get a better contract there or at another club.

“Jacksonville are newly-founded but they’re on the up and I’m delighted to be joining them on the ground floor as something special might come out of it.”

The second half of the NASL campaign has just begun so Kilduff is already itching to get over and line out for his new club. He may be waiting a couple of weeks before obtaining a work visa, however, but Jacksonville are regularly in touch.

They’ve sent a training programme and are currently in the process of finding him somewhere to live.

“Thankfully, it’s mid-season here too,” he says. “I feel fit and ready to go. I’m itching for a game. The adrenaline and excitement hasn’t worn off yet. It was a big decision and it happened relatively quick for the magnitude of it.

“Now it’s about getting over, settling in quickly and hitting the ground running. There’s no pre-season or training camp so hopefully it will be straight into a match-day squad after a couple of days training.”

Predictions

Every week, we’re giving readers the chance to take us on in predicting the Premier Division results. After Week 21, here are the standings:

The Readers: 67
The42: 65

Next up is Shamrock Rovers fan Noel Westman…

Bohemians v Bray Wanderers – Bohs win
Drogheda United v Cork City – Cork win
Dundalk v Limerick – Dundalk win
Finn Harps v Galway United – Draw
Shamrock Roves v Derry City – Rovers win
Sligo Rovers v St Patrick’s Athletic – Draw

The42 (Ben Blake)

Bohemians v Bray Wanderers – Bohs win
Drogheda United v Cork City – Cork win
Dundalk v Limerick – Dundalk win
Finn Harps v Galway United – Finn Harps win
Shamrock Roves v Derry City – Draw
Sligo Rovers v St Patrick’s Athletic – Draw

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