Sunday 24 March 2019

'I made a conscious decision to be more powerful' - Ciarán Kilkenny gained weight to gain an edge

Ciaran Kilkenny posted some impressive figures in the championship, according to the official ‘Sure’ statistics. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciaran Kilkenny posted some impressive figures in the championship, according to the official ‘Sure’ statistics. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's difficult to fathom it now but the 2011 Dublin minor squad that contained Ciaran Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey, Eric Lowndes, Paul Mannion, John Small, Niall Scully and Cormac Costello weren't good enough to win an All-Ireland title that year.

Those seven make up a considerable backbone of the current Dublin effort that sees them turn their attention towards an historic drive for five in 2019. However, that afternoon a wonder-strike from Colman Kennedy laid waste to manager Dessie Farrell's best laid plans.

At the time it must have been devastating for a Dublin team that carried a big billing in the grade, but in a roundabout way it might just have helped them to their current lofty position as Kilkenny revealed that, just minutes after watching Tipperary accept the Tom Markham Cup, himself and McCaffrey made a promise to go one better next time out.

"We just looked at each other in the shower and kinda said this is a tough loss, let's learn from this experience and let it drive us on and hopefully we can come back again and I suppose be in a position to win one the next time."

They couldn't have known what would follow, of course. Kilkenny, McCaffrey and Co went on to secure an All-Ireland U-21 before becoming a key figures in Dublin's current golden generation.

Since their win over Tyrone earlier this month, there has been some grumbling over the percentage of central funds sent Dublin's way over the last decade and more. However, Kilkenny insists that it's people and not purse strings that have helped Jim Gavin's side to become top dogs.

"From my perspective, it's down to all the hard work that goes on. For example, the influence that Dessie would have had on us. He's a past player who's representing his county. He was a massive role model for us, to have someone and the amount of guys that have given back their time at underage level and even at their own clubs then as well like.

"You see our management and people that are involved in our management team, the work that they put on at their own club level then volunteering as well. And it's down to the goodwill of people that are giving their time to help boys and girls develop as people and also develop as players as well and allow them to grow as individuals and players, all that time that's put into the youth is the most important thing. That's how I'd respond to it really."

The last couple of weeks have been a blur with visits and nights out and all that comes with winning an All-Ireland title. Each one, Kilkenny insists, has to be cherished.

"Each year is different. We've a different panel. We always say at the end of the year in the dressing room that same group is never going to be there again."

Kilkenny was speaking as 'Sure revealed the stats behind the Dubs' record-equalling four in a row success. Their scoring average of 27.5 points across eight 2018 championship games is higher than in any season in the last 10, with the second-highest average coming in 2014, when they registered 26.4 points per game.

They also showed Kilkenny, who earlier this week was nominated for the Footballer of the Year gong, enjoyed a brilliant summer in front of goal. His average score per game increased in 2018 to 4.3 points compared with a career average of 2.2.

And having spent some time at full-forward at various points during the season, Kilkenny revealed that he bulked up over the winter to help him deal with the challenges presented by operating closer to goal.

"You need to be able to play in different positions, and bring them into different areas to make them feel uncomfortable. So that was just the flexibility in my role to play in different positions, and I suppose I made a conscious decision this year to make myself a little bit stronger.

"I was probably a couple of kilos heavier than I normally would have been, so I made a bit more of a conscious effort to be a bit more powerful that would have enabled me to go at the game a little bit more."

Irish Independent

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