Monday 23 April 2018

'I wake up and all I think about is my friends, my family, Dublin, my club' - Ciaran Kilkenny has no regrets

Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny after beating Mayo in the All Ireland final
Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny after beating Mayo in the All Ireland final
Dublin footballer Ciaran Kilkenny. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Sam Wheeler

Ciaran Kilkenny has spent most of the last couple of seasons as Dublin's quarterback, dictating the play and controlling the tempo of the match.

Statistics show that in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, he had possession of the ball 62 times. Against Mayo in the final, though, that figure plummeted to eight.

If that reduction in direct influence bothers the Castleknock man, he certainly doesn't show it. It is a measure of his threat that Mayo put Lee Keegan on him - which Kilkenny feels helped to create space elsewhere.

Ego, he insists, does not come into it, and he claims to have enjoyed the final as much as the games where everything revolves around him. Even in a less visible role, he was one of only two Dublin starting forwards not to be replaced.

"As long as the team wins, that's the most important thing for me," he says. "I did my role for the team. If Lee was giving me extra attention… I go into different spaces...

"I love every game. As long as we get the result, we're happy."

And Kilkenny (24) pretty much always gets the result; he has lost just one game of championship football since making his debut in 2012 (he missed the 2014 season through injury), picking up four All-Irelands. So his decision to turn his back on an Australian Rules career has clearly paid off?

"I've just been lucky," he says. "I always wanted to play for Dublin. Ten years ago, Dublin weren't competing in All-Irelands. When I was a young fella, I went to so many games where we weren't successful.

"You just have to appreciate that this is a unique time. This is a special group at the moment."

Now a trainee primary school teacher, does he ever check his bank balance and wonder 'what if?'

"I wake up and all I think about is my friends, my family, Dublin, my club, and how we can improve. That's all we think about."

Like most of this team, Kilkenny stays relentlessly on-message - on the give-nothing-away, keep-it-tight message that is at odds with the generally uplifting way the Dubs go about their business on the field.

He won't be drawn on the GPS device that was thrown at Dean Rock. He talks about "doing what you can to win" and "getting over the line"; he describes one of the great All-Ireland finals of recent years - in which the Dubs completed a hat-trick of All-Irelands - as "just another game".

He doesn't make winning multiple All-Irelands sound like a lot of fun, yet it is clear that the Dublin team have been enjoying themselves this week. Kilkenny yesterday jetted off to Spain for a few days' well-earned relaxation with two team-mates before he returns for teaching practice next week - and the business of annexing another All-Ireland.

Ciaran Kilkenny is an ambassador for Sure, official statistics partner for the GAA

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