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Everyone dreams of playing at Croke Park - Kilkenny

Kilkenny: Croke Park is sacred Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Kilkenny: Croke Park is sacred Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The way the cards fell, it was left to Ciarán Kilkenny to field the questions about Croke Park, home advantage and Donegal's query as to how "any county may use a ground as both a neutral and home venue."

Kilkenny, as a Sure ambassador, was scheduled for a media gig yesterday along with Wexford hurler Lee Chin.

And but for Donegal's statement late on Tuesday night where they indicated their intention to seek clarification from the GAA on how the 'Super 8s' fixtures were set to pan out, it would have been a run-of-the-mill media event where he'd likely have fielded questions about the state of Leinster football and championship structures.

Instead, Kilkenny, who sat with the assembled daily newspaper representatives for more than 20 minutes, fielded questions around the Croke Park issue.

Kilkenny played the inevitable queries surrounding Donegal's stance generated with an admirably straight bat. There was to be no grandstanding. No message of defiance and offer to play anyone, anywhere to underline their greatness. Dublin are quite happy with the status quo and Kilkenny wasn't about to give the story any more oxygen.

"I see Croke Park as the centre of kind of our sacred turf that with every boy, no matter if you're from Dublin or any other part of the country, when you grow up you dream of playing at Croke Park," he replied, when asked if he considered it Croke Park a home venue for the Dubs.

"When you go home from games when you're younger and you're kicking the ball, you dream of playing at Croke Park. I suppose the fact that we play our National League games at Croke Park is to facilitate that all the boys and girls can go and see the games in Croke Park and the fact that there are 80,000 seats in Croke Park.

"Essentially, we rent it out during the National League and it's great that we can give those boys and girls the opportunity to go and see their heroes from their local areas and their local clubs.

"That's essentially why we play there in the National League."

He was asked several questions on the topic in different ways but to a large extent, he kept his counsel. Kilkenny hasn't played senior football for Dublin in Parnell Park but wouldn't be drawn on whether the perception of Croke Park as the GAA's HQ has changed since the Dubs started playing league matches there in 2011.

"I suppose I can't really comment on that because I'm not in their situation. I just see it as where I wanted to go out and play when I was growing up, where all our All-Ireland finals are played in hurling and football.

"I know from speaking to anyone that's where they want to play, in Croke Park, it's the hallowed turf ...

"So from my perspective I love playing in Croke Park, but at the end of the day I just love going out there and playing Gaelic football, wherever it may be."

And he went on to point out that while it can be perceived that Dublin play the vast majority of their games there year on year, they have also been beaten on Jones road.

Monaghan turned them over there in a dead rubber league match this year while Kerry won the 2017 league final at HQ.

Their last championship defeat came there too when Donegal turned them over in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

"The last few games we lost where in Croke Park, I suppose, when you think about it.

"I don't know, I can't really speak from their perspective, I suppose as a player you just focus on your training, you just focus on what you can control about your individual performance and helping your team-mates.

"All that kind of administrative kind of stuff is done at a higher level and it's just up to us to concentrate on our football and keeping fit and healthy.

"And obviously we have our own personal lives and careers as well that we need to be focusing on, but we're focusing on the football first and foremost and leave that stuff to everyone who has to be dealing with it on the background and just focus on football."

Irish Independent

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