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'I'm going to be speaking Irish, doing ceilís and having the craic' - Kilkenny

The versatile Dublin attacker will be flying home for training sessions as they prepare for the All-Ireland final.

CIARAN KILKENNY HAS fitted a life’s worth of experiences into his 23 years.

In a few weeks he’ll play in his third senior All-Ireland final, having won the previous two, along with an All-Star, three Leinster titles and two National League crowns.

Ciaran Kilkenny Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In 2011 he won Leinster minor medals in both football and hurling with Dublin and picked up an All-Ireland U21 title the following year. Kilkenny is a noted small ball player, having turned down advances from the county’s senior hurling management in the past.

The Castleknock man has represented Ireland in the International Rules series and he spent four months Down Under trying his hand at Aussie Rules with Hawthorn before deciding to return home.

And Kilkenny has suffered the pain of long-term injury too. He the missed the entire 2014 championship with a dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tear.

He’s already dipped his toes into management, having overseen the ladies football team at St. Patrick’s College before he took on the role of captain-manager for their 2016 Sigerson Cup campaign.

Under Jim Gavin, Kilkenny has become arguably the most versatile player in the country. A jack of all trades. He initially made his name as a high-scoring corner-forward for the U21s, before winning an All-Star last year at centre-forward.

James McCarthy’s injury problems earlier in the summer meant Jim Gavin turned Kilkenny into a ball carrying wing-back, where he racked up an impressive 52 possessions in their quarter-final win over Donegal.

“I love playing wherever for the team,” Kilkenny says. “I played centre-back a lot for my club when I was younger. And actually when I was younger than that, I played a lot at full-back as well.

“So 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.

“You’re in the thick of things. You get to get on breaking ball, you can get tackles in, you get on the play and support the attack.

“It’s brilliant to be in the middle of it all. But I’ll do whatever job I’m asked. I’m so happy to be part of the team.

He’ll spend the next couple of weeks the Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal as part of the Master in Education post-graduate course he’s starting in September.

“I knew coming into the game that it would be a possible distraction if we won,” Kilkenny says. “But I think it will be no problem.

“It will be good craic. And there’s an airport there right beside Gaoth Dobhair so I’ll probably fly back for training. [The airport] is only 10 minutes away from where I’m staying.

“I’m right beside the sea there and the GAA pitch is right beside where I’m staying. So it will be nice to see that part of the country.”

Paddy McBrearty and Ciaran Kilkenny celebrate Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He sets off on Thursday and won’t miss any training sessions as Dublin bid to retain the All-Ireland title for the first time since 1977.

“I won’t be doing much on the weekends so I’ll be able to come home. The flights are fairly frequent. So I’m just going to be in Gaoth Dobhair speaking Irish and having the craic and doing ceilís.

“I might decline doing the ‘aul Irish dancing in case I get injured! But it’ll be nice to get away. I think it’s more so to get people in the course to know each other and in a fun way, getting people to speak Irish.

“So they do it through games and ceilís and quizzes. They’ll have classes in grammar and stuff like that.”

Kilkenny, an avid Gaeilgeoir, says he’s looking forward to keeping his mind off the decider against Mayo on September 18.

“For every player, you’re always thinking football. But it’s important to do other things. To take your mind off it.

“I was 19 in 2013. I was a young lad going playing in an All-Ireland final. Just out of minor level.

“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. Because as soon as it comes to the matchday, you’re in the same routine. It’s going to be another game of football.”

If things had been different he could well be playing AFL in Australia, but he has no regrets about leaving the opportunity of professional sport behind him.

“I’m firmly happy with my decision. 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.

“We would literally do anything for each other. That itself is a special thing. We’ll be life long friends. We’ll be looking back when we’re 70 or 80 years of age.

“They always say school is the best days of your life but it’s the exact same thing playing with Dublin.”

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‘I won’t be watching the All-Ireland final, I’ll be golfing or something’ – Davy Fitzgerald

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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