Tuesday 20 March 2018

Kilkenny drawn home by love of club and county

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THOSE who dismiss Twitter as nothing more than a repository for navel-gazing sports stars contemplating what breakfast cereal to nibble have been proven wrong.

Dublin underage dual star Ciaran Kilkenny (@CKKilkenny93) used the social network to release a statement revealing he had decided "for personal reasons not to return to Aussie Rules."

The Castleknock dual star's decision to do a dramatic U-turn and walk away from AFL side Hawthorn after only joining them in mid-November is an extraordinary turnaround.

The young Blue is regarded as one of the biggest underage talents in the country – and the news didn't just rock Hawthorn. Word of his return reverberated in every county in Ireland and left several Dublin team managers, including hurling boss Anthony Daly, rubbing their hands at the possibility of having access to him in 2013.

The GAA will have been delighted to see another of their best young talents cut short his time in Australia, particularly because of the reasons he gave for such a remarkably quick turnaround.

"As much as I enjoyed the lifestyle of an 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 with the people with whom I grew up and live," Kilkenny said.

"Achieving success and realising my potential as a hurler and footballer with my club and county will always be more important to me than any of the benefits to be obtained from professional sport. Sport has always been something I did for enjoyment and I have found that it's not something I can do merely because it's my job," he added.

"The passion I feel for hurling and football is not transferable to any other sport and seeing my neighbours and team-mates happy when we do well is reward enough."

Such comments will be manna to the GAA. The manner and content of his revelation certainly underlined unusual maturity for a teenager who will not turn 20 until July. He stressed his return had nothing to do with Hawthorn, saying "the professionalism of the club was exemplary and they always made me feel very welcome."

Kilkenny was initially scouted by Carlton, but signed for Hawthorn and was reportedly living with their recruiting manager Graham Wright and his family, who said that "Ciaran transitioned into the club well, news of his decision was quite unexpected."

He first came to national GAA prominence when he was one of several dual players who won Leinster minor football and hurling medals in 2011 and went on to lose both All-Ireland finals that year.

Last year he scored 2-30 in the course of Dublin's run to an All-Ireland U-21 football title and received the Cadbury's 'Hero of The Future' award as the best U-21 footballer in the country.

With Emmet O Conghaile, Jack McCaffrey and Kevin O'Brien he was among the U-21s called up by Pat Gilroy and made his Dublin senior debut when replacing Diarmuid Connolly in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Laois.

He then started at corner-forward in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo in place of the injured Alan Brogan and scored 0-3 from play.

It is inevitable Kilkenny will quickly hook up again with Dublin's new senior boss Jim Gavin and also with new U-21 manager Dessie Farrell.

He acted as water-carrier for Farrell's minor team at last year's All-Ireland final, and his former minor mentor described his initial decision to go to Australia as "a sad day for Dublin GAA."


But Dublin hurling boss Daly will also inevitably join the queue of people looking for his service as Kilkenny specifically mentioned his love of hurling among the reasons for his return.

Before he left he had already started an Arts degree in UCD which he can quickly resume. He had also played a part in helping his club Castleknock to win the Leinster junior football title and is now expected to line out in their All-Ireland semi-final against Kenmare Shamrocks on January 27.

The one certainty already is that Kilkenny is quickly going to become a young man in demand and former Dublin footballer Tomas 'Mossy' Quinn made a particularly prescient comment yesterday when he tweeted "great to hear @CKKilkenny93 passing on Oz. He might miss it when he starts trying to juggle about 12 teams between club/county/college."

Irish Independent

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