Aussie eyes on Kilkenny

Conor McKeon

DUBLIN could be set to lose one of their most talented young players to the AFL, as Aussie Rules outfit Carlton are believed to be poised to offer dual prodigy Ciarán Kilkenny a two-year rookie contract.

However, it is unlikely the player will sign professional terms until such time as he completes his Leaving Cert next June in Scoil Caitriona, St Mobhi Road, in Glasnevin.

Kilkenny, who starred for Dublin in their run to the minor football and hurling All-Ireland finals this year, was one of 16 young footballers put through their paces by recruitment officer, Gerard Sholly, at a specially organised training camp at the University of Limerick’s grounds three weeks ago. Sholly is believed to have been impressed by the Castlenock man’s performance.

Carlton subsequently offered international rookie terms to Louth player Ciarán Byrne, but as he is a minor again next year, he is unable to sign due to an agreement reached between the GAA and all AFL clubs.

The Melbourne club have now turned their attentions to Kilkenny, who attended the trial along with fellow Dubs Emmet ó Chonghaile and Jack McCaffrey. As he is overage for the minor grade next year, Kilkenny is eligible to sign for the Blues but it is unlikely that he will do so in the immediate term as he has yet to complete his Leaving Cert.

Kilkenny hit 0-41 (0-13f) in Dublin’s seven MFC matches this season, easily making him their top scorer, while he also finished with 3-13 (1-0 pen, |1-4f) for the hurlers, just one point shy of Dublin’s top marksman, Cormac Costello. Already, his future has been the subject of intense speculation in Dublin and while the respective football and hurling communities were set to quibble over his commitment, both could now lose out to Aussie Rules.

Presuming he resists signing in the immediate term, Kilkenny is likely to play football and hurling at U21 level for Dublin in 2012, but there have already been whispers around the capital about a swift call up into both Pat Gilroy and Anthony Daly’s panels.

If Kilkenny’s future does lie in the AFL, he will become the sixth Dublin player to try his hand with the oval ball. Most famously and successfully, Jim Stynes left for Oz in 1984, where he forged a stellar career with Melbourne, winning the Brownlow Medal in 1991.

Another Dub, James Fahy, arrived out to Melbourne with Stynes but returned soon after, while Stynes’ younger brother Brian stayed for three years between 1990 and 1993, before coming back and winning an All-Ireland with Dublin in 1995.

More recently, Clontarf’s Kevin Devine had a brief spell with Melbourne in 2000, while Ballyboden St Enda’s Declan O’Mahony spent several months with Sydney Swans in 2002.

DUBLIN chairman Andy Kettle has poured cold water on the prospect of a new 25,000-capacity stadium being built in the capital for the “foreseeable future”.

It was one of the recommendations of the strategic plan for Dublin GAA 2011-2017, launched on Monday, but would require the support of neighbouring Leinster counties.

Kettle said: “At Leinster Council, the counties decided they would prefer local facilities to be upgraded rather than a new facility built.”