Tuesday 20 March 2018

Star-in-waiting Kilkenny has the world at his feet

Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny will line out in the U21 All-Ireland decider on Sunday
Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny will line out in the U21 All-Ireland decider on Sunday
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

REMEMBER the name? Most people already know about Ciaran Kilkenny.

Probably the most famous Leaving Cert student in the country will exhibit his enthralling array of skills on Sunday when he lines out for the Dublin U-21 footballers in the All-Ireland decider against Roscommon.

It will be his third national final in six months -- he came out on the wrong side of both minor finals last September -- and it comes just weeks before he sits his exams. Where he goes from there, who knows?

Kilkenny, it seems, has the world at his feet. With his physique and obvious skills, many say he's already ripe enough for senior inter-county hurling or football.

There's interest from Australia, too -- a two-year rookie contract offer from Carlton and reported interest from at least another two AFL clubs.


So Kilkenny has some huge decisions to make this summer, way beyond the usual 'which college to go to' question that most of his contemporaries will deal with.

"Everything can wait until after the Leaving Cert," asserted the Castleknock youngster, who is a cousin of Tipperary hurler Gearoid Ryan and a relative of the late Galway football great Seanie Purcell.

"It is 50-50 at the moment. I've always wanted to be a teacher and that's one dream I have. Professional sports is obviously going to attract me as well. Some time between now and October I'll go for a three-week trial over in Australia, see what it's like over there and make my decision then.

"I'd look at Aussie Rules and I would kind of know what's going on. I know how hard it is to make it over there. I know how a lot of people have struggled to make it over there but..."

The sentence trails off, but the notion of life in Australia seems to

have turned his head, which is bad news for Pat Gilroy, who is believed to be ready to draft him into the senior squad for the summer.

Anthony Daly is also sure to be keeping a close eye on Kilkenny, who grew up with hurling as his first love.

It's a lot for an 18-year-old to take on. At the launch of the Electric Ireland minor championships, which he squeezed in before finishing off the day with double maths, Kilkenny admitted that his new-found celebrity brings its own issues.

"It's hard enough to manage, it affects the people around you as well," he said.

"It is hard at times but I suppose you have deal with it. Sometimes it is a bit annoying.

"I would try and keep away from talking about GAA now these days, especially coming up to matches, I wouldn't really want to talk about it.

"I'd prefer to just keep to myself, concentrate, like, I would stay away from papers, Facebook, Twitter and stuff like that. Just keep away from all that stuff. Just concentrate on my game, visualise about that."


He could win his first Celtic Cross on Sunday and he plans on playing for the Dublin U-21 hurlers, though he will miss their June 6 opener against Laois due to exam commitments.

Dublin will do their utmost to keep Kilkenny here. Perhaps typically for an 18-year-old he wants to play both codes, and he references Cork dual star Eoin Cadogan. Hurling was his favoured sport growing up -- he won an All-Ireland Feile with his club in 2007 -- but the rising tide that is football is an attractive proposition.

"For now I'll concentrate on my studies and see if Pat (Gilroy) will talk to me when I'm finished. After the Leaving Cert, if I'm asked to go up, I would love to go up," he said.

"Same (with the hurlers), I wouldn't mind going up to either of them.

"That's a decision I would have to make with my dad. I'd like to do both but it's hard."

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