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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 20 April, 2019
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Ciaran Kilkenny back where he wants to be

The player’s decision to return to Ireland following a stint in Australia has been a key factor in Dublin’s march to the All Ireland final.

HOME IS WHERE the heart usually is. For those gifted enough to be competing in elite sport the fortunate ones can compete for All Ireland titles. Lifting Sam Maguire is the objective and Ciaran Kilkenny is the latest to return from Australia with a clear mission in his mind.

A month ago in an interview with the Irish Times Kilkenny’s boyhood dreams were made clear. “I wanted to win All Irelands, I wanted to play in Croke Park and win Leinsters and all of that.”

So when Hawthorn came calling with the lure of being a professional athlete Kilkenny was forced to make a significant call. A few months in Australia and Kilkenny then knew exactly where he wanted to be. To the relief of the Dublin GAA fraternity it was home.

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In a thoughtful statement released by Kilkenny the essence of the GAA was captured. “As much as I enjoyed the lifestyle of a professional Aussie Rules player and relished the challenge of achieving in a different code, I realised that it would never matter as much to me as the sense of community and joy I get from togging out and playing alongside the people with whom I grew up and live.”

That has happened during another one of those electric summers in which the Dubs have captured the public imagination. Kilkenny has been a significant and subtle influence crating chances for an inside forward line which glimmers with class.

Now that an All Ireland final has been reached Kilkenny is edging closer to fulfilling a ambition that dominates the thoughts of any football mad youngster. Recent history is sprinkled with those who enjoyed stints Down Under too.

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Within minutes of claiming success in 2009 for Kerry against Cork Kennelly’s was aware of his feat. “I can barely get the words out. I’m very, very lucky to come back in my first year and reach an All Ireland final.” Kennelly’s journeys between the Sydney Swans and Kerry were a testament to how deeply it mattered to him to sample Croke Park in September.

Ciaran Sheehan had an offer from Carlton, but by September 2010 he was colliding with Down’s Marty Clarke, who had come back from Collingwood in search of Sam. In an interview with the Irish News back in 2009, similar to Kilkenny, Clarke outlined his longing for those sultry summer days in Ireland. “To be honest the thing I really miss most is the late spring and early summer evenings when you are down at the local club for a game. You know those nights when the sun sets and everyone is in good spirits, those nights when it stays bright until half 10 or 11.

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“I have nothing like that because I am living in the city. It gets dark about eight or nine o’clock. You miss those evenings out in the countryside when you play a game and then catch up with everyone after the game. I strongly believe the best moments of my sporting life are ahead of me and I want to show them on the GAA stage.”

There were some fine cameos during Down’s rollicking 2010 adventure with Clarke acting the polished playmaker, but Cork, with Sheehan outstanding, claimed Sam Maguire.

Kilkenny left for pastures new last autumn, but seven months after opting for Dublin again he will be a key contributor their latest All Ireland tilt. Precisely where he wants to be.

Dublin v Mayo, All-Ireland senior football final match guide>

My favourite All-Ireland football final: our writers’ memories>

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