Cullen: Dublin can't pin hopes on Kilkenny
BRYAN CULLEN has warned Dublin fans not to expect too much from the returning Ciaran Kilkenny.
The man who led the boys in blue to the 2011 All-Ireland believes that the Castleknock forward's return is a boost for the Dubs, but says the teenager needs time to develop in the coming months.
Kilkenny last week announced his shock decision to return to Ireland after a short stint as a full-time professional with Australian Rules club Hawthorn.
Having won an U-21 All-Ireland with Dublin last year, Kilkenny was gradually introduced to the senior set-up and was one of Pat Gilroy's best performers in the semi-final defeat to Mayo.
His Australian u-turn is being seen as a major coup for new manager Jim Gavin, who has begun to introduce a number of Kilkenny's young contemporaries to the senior set-up.
However, last year's captain does not want the expectation to go into overdrive as Kilkenny prepares for Castleknock's All-Ireland JFC semi-final against Kenmare next month.
"At the end of the day, he is only 19, a young guy and we shouldn't be pinning the hopes of Dublin football on his shoulders," Cullen said.
"It is great from a Dublin point of view to have him back, but we should let him concentrate on his underage football for the next few months.
"I was happy to see him come home because it is obvious that he is a hugely talented player and, judging by his performances at the tail end of last year, he does have a huge amount to offer Dublin football.
"For now, his priorities are concentrating on his club who have a big game coming up and then his underage football and hurling and that is probably for the best."
Cullen does not believe that a big profile will hinder the rising young star, whom, he feels, can handle the interest that comes with his position.
"Certainly, he attracts more attention than other players his age, but that is going to happen in Dublin," he added at the National Dairy Council 'Bring on the Pros' event yesterday.
"The move to Australia was fairly high profile and it is going to be something that people talk about, but as a talented, young Dublin footballer, that is just something that he'll have to learn to live with.
"He is a very well-grounded guy, a good guy and I wouldn't say it is any bother to him."
Cullen is enjoying a rare break from inter-county football at the moment and intends to return to training early next month.
Having previously admitted that he struggled with his desire last year, the 28-year-old Skerries man admitted that absence has made his heart grow fonder and he is beginning to relish a return to the pitch.
"I'm enjoying the break to be honest with you," he admitted. "But, I do find that I'm beginning to get the appetite back for it and I'm getting to the point where I'm looking forward to getting back out on the pitch. I suppose that was the point of taking an extended break."
A strength and conditioning expert who works with young players at Leinster Rugby, Cullen is not letting himself go.
And he is following a number of players who have mileage on the clock in taking the early months off in a bid to retain his freshness for the business end of the system.
"I'm keeping in touch with the Dublin fitness staff and keeping myself tipping along," he explained.
"It is a long year. Teams get back training in December and you can play until September.
"The older players do it, they're on the road a long time and they are doing the same thing, they are keeping themselves fresh and keep their appetite going. It has worked well for other players, so, hopefully, it will do the same for myself."