Monday 17 June 2019

Kilkenny: There are always things to improve on

Dublin star sent just one pass astray in 2018 but he's determined to get even better

Pass master: Ciaran Kilkenny topped the charts when it came to passes completed last year, but says there’s always aspects of his game to work on. Photo: Sportsfile
Pass master: Ciaran Kilkenny topped the charts when it came to passes completed last year, but says there’s always aspects of his game to work on. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When the statistics from last year's championship emerged, following Dublin's fourth All-Ireland title in a row, the numbers showed that Ciarán Kilkenny had put down an incredible season in terms of efficiency.

Just one of his 169 attempted foot and hand-passes went astray, leaving him with a pass completion rate of 99.4pc.

He had scored 2-24 across seven championship matches and had a shot efficiency rate of more than 60pc. But over the winter, Kilkenny went looking for an edge - small things that could bring him on.

"I suppose try and be the best I can for the team, put a massive emphasis on defence, being better at the defensive side of things," he said at the Sure GAA Statistics 2019 season launch.

"Whatever I can do to help the team become better, that and try to get a little bit leaner to cover the ground a little bit more - I'm getting a little bit older, so I need to lean up a little bit more. So there are always little bits and pieces you can improve on."

Over the winter he took an extended break. And as such, carried a bit more weight than expected when he rejoined the squad.

"I went on a bit of a trip in January and February, I went off to Australia and New Zealand. My sister was nursing in Australia so I went over to see her for a while. Maybe I still have a little bit of that to lose. That's probably the reasoning behind the (extra) kilos!

"But I feel like I'm in a really good place at the moment, I feel really fit and healthy, touch wood - that's the most important thing to me."

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While Down Under, he pressed the flesh to see what he could learn. He teamed up with former Cavan footballer Nicholas Walsh, who now works for the AFL, and took in a St Kilda training session.

He also spent time golfing with Conor McKenna and Darragh Joyce, two talented sportsmen who stayed in Aussie Rules after Kilkenny decided the AFL wasn't for him.

He even gleaned some insight from one of his tour guides after discovering that he had played professional rugby in Japan.

"There's always different things you can learn from different sports. I suppose they just have more volume of time that they can focus in on different things.

"There's a lot of stuff that transfers over, in terms of what they're doing with their whole culture, their leaders, they're all very similar things that you can transfer over and it's interesting to see the similarities that would be there from going over to a club in the AFL.

"It's a different sport but there are also similarities. So, it's interesting to see how fit those guys are over there in comparison to our guys.

"Our guys would be on the same level. The Irish guys that go over there generally do really well in the aerobic contests and time trials that they do over there."

He returned home with a new-found interest in surfing. As a general rule, west is best and on the day after games, he heads for Sligo or Donegal.

"It's very challenging, I fell off the board a good few times, kind of got brought in against the current a little bit but I was safe and sound after - thank God.

"It was a bit of fun, I enjoy doing different things, especially in the water, it's pretty cool."

As for events on the field, Kilkenny described Dublin's two facile championship wins as "enjoyable" and talked up Meath's performances this year as the rival counties head for a Leinster final collision.

The Dubs will be expected to make it three wins from three when they take on the Royal County side on Sunday week, a victory that will allow them to into the 'Super 8s'.

And Kilkenny admitted that the competition for places in Jim Gavin's squad keeps the players sharp even as they threaten to steamroll their way through Leinster once again.

"The team are so fortunate to have such competition for places and we have a couple of lads coming back from injury and you need that in the group to drive each other on and have that competitiveness in the squad.

"We were really happy with the performance the last day (against Kildare) but there are different areas we want to improve.

"There are different segments that weren't up to our standards, so we'll look to improve on that. In each game you can learn so much, so we are really excited about playing against Meath next week.

"There is great local rivalry with Meath and they are performing really well. They are a Division 1 side and beat us the last time we played them in the Sean Cox tournament, so we are really looking forward to that challenge."

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