Early success steals youth away from even the most gifted
Tipping Point:My, my. What japes we had on Saturday night in Croker. Not so much a game of two halves, more like a night of six sixths or seven sevenths.
At times it seemed as if the pitch was on an axle and every once in a while someone (possibly a Central Council delegate gone stone mad with the power) decided to tilt it so that one or other of the teams was playing downhill.
Scores came in cloudbursts, Stephen Cluxton missed a penalty and Ger Brennan’s grip on his marbles slipped for just long enough to earn him a red card.
Mayo looked heavy-legged towards the end but saw little enough to fret about on the road back west. Ger Cafferkey got a severe chasing from Bernard Brogan all right but you’ll have that sometimes.
Better to be skinned in March than scalded in August or September.
In amongst the carnival lights, Ciarán Kilkenny quietly and unobtrusively put spark to his own candle. Smuggled into the starting line-up as a late replacement for Diarmuid Connolly, this was his first league game as a Dublin senior.
Anyone expecting to see the cartwheeling fizzbomb who put up 2-10 against Carlow in an under-21 match the other week might have left wondering what all the fuss is about. Kilkenny didn’t take a shot at goal all night.
That wasn’t what he was there for though. His job for the night was to process ball from out around the 45 into the full-forward line. Time after time, he arrowed 30-yard kick passes into Brogan, Paddy Andrews and later, when he came on , Kevin McManamon.
The best of them came in the second half, soon after Brennan had walked and Cluxton had seen his penalty saved.
Kilkenny arced a gorgeous pass down the sideline under the Hogan Stand, putting McManamon away for the goal that gave Dublin a lead they never lost. It wasn’t so much play-making as quarter-backing.
Earlier last week, Kilkenny turned up in Croke Park for one of the publicity gigs of which we’ve all become so fond. It was his first outing since his love letter to the GAA back at the start of January and for as long as we came up with questions, he leaned against a desk off to the side of the GAA Museum and happily came back with answers.
He talked about life and passion and teaching and all that good stuff, every once in a while throwing in a seanfhocal that made a fair portion of the hacks cough and shuffle and stare at our shoes. The dread thought struck that if the football and hurling didn’t work out for some reason (God forbid), this lad could be GAA president by the time he turns 26 (seriously God, forbid).
Kilkenny is 19, won’t be 20 until July. He is at that stage just now where every mention of his gifts comes accompanied by a reference to his birth cert. Saturday night was his first league game only because he was studying for his Leaving Cert this time last year. Yet when you watch him play and listen to him speak, his age becomes worth remarking upon only for how little he seems to act it.