DUBLIN GAA's most highly coveted young talent, Ciarán Kilkenny, must be given the "freedom" to make up his own mind as he mulls over a potential move to Aussie Rules outfit Carlton.
That's the view of Dublin county board chairman Andy Kettle, who said they would love if the underage dual star stays in the capital while stressing that they won't try and influence his thinking.
The Evening Herald last week broke the story of how the Carlton Blues were poised to offer Kilkenny a two-year rookie contract, but that he was unlikely to sign professional terms until such time as he completes his Leaving Cert next June at Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin.
Since then, the minor sensation underlined his potential as a senior Sky Blue in the making by inspiring Castleknock to their first ever Dublin minor football 'A' championship on Tuesday night.
Kilkenny tallied five points from play, 0-8 in total, from midfield as Castleknock ran out comprehensive 0-13 to 1-5 winners over the holders, Ballyboden St Enda's, at Parnell Park.
Before the Australian link first surfaced, all the debate about his future focused on which code he was likely to choose at senior level. Now the ground has shifted dramatically, with fears that he could be lost to Gaelic games within the next 12 months.
"It's recognised that Ciarán is a huge talent at both football and hurling, and obviously he had a super game (on Tuesday night)," Kettle told the Evening Herald. "There has been talk about Australia. That would be totally down to Ciarán and his parents at this stage.
"If we we were to influence Ciarán Kilkenny and say 'You have to stay' and something happened over the next few years, maybe injury, it would always be a regret all his life that he didn't do what he wanted to do. So he has to be given the freedom to make the choice," the county board chief stressed.
"If he went - and we hope that he wouldn't - and was successful, we would wish him all the best and hopefully we would get a few years out of him at the end of his career. It has been done by other players.
"If he went and unfortunately wasn't successful in making the breakthrough, he would always be welcome on any Dublin panel," Kettle concluded.
His chairman at Castleknock, Niall Tutty, declined to comment on something that is "all speculation" pertaining to a possible AFL switch but stressed that the club is "delighted" to have a player of his talent.
"It's a young club; the club is built around Ciarán and guys like him. There are other stars on the field. He is one of a special group that happened to come together at the one time," Tutty pointed out.
Kilkenny sprung to national prominence last summer while helping Dublin qualify for All-Ireland minor finals in both codes. He hit 0-41 (0-13f) in the footballers' seven MFC outings, 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, fellow dual player Cormac Costello.