Ciarán Kilkenny takes under-21 hurling loss and Jack O’Shea’s criticism in his stride

Dublin teenager gives Carlow full credit for being the better team on the day

 Joe Canning (left) and Dublin dual player Ciarán Kilkenny in Croker yesterday to launch a GAA initiative to support the Irish language. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Joe Canning (left) and Dublin dual player Ciarán Kilkenny in Croker yesterday to launch a GAA initiative to support the Irish language. Photograph: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile


Ciarán Kilkenny is a hard lad to ruffle. Fresh from being on the wrong end of the standout scoreline of the week – Dublin’s under-21 hurling defeat to Carlow on Tuesday night – he bounced into Croke Park yesterday and wore his disappointment lightly.

“Obviously disappointed about the result. But in fairness, Carlow are traditional hurling county and they were the better team on the day. You’d just wish them the best of luck for the under-21 campaign. It’s always a difficult grade with exams and stuff like that.

“We were fully prepared. I played a club game there at the weekend and we were released to play against Galway the week before. We had our training done. It’s just Carlow were the better team on the day and they got the goal at the end.”

The time may come when Kilkenny is able to combine football and hurling at senior level but that time isn’t here yet. He’s spending the summer working as an intern in Dublin Airport and starts teacher training college in the autumn. If he’s ever to find time for both codes, it will be as a student.

Until then, he’s a Dublin footballer. One who has been noted and feted routinely since making his debut in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Laois. But the bouquets don’t come without thorns and Kilkenny found himself singled out by none other than Jack O’Shea in a pre-championship preview in the Sunday Times.

“I have doubts about him,” said Jacko. “I saw every league match he played and can safely say he got blocked down about 20 times. He’s a junior footballer. He’s static when he gets on the ball. He’s taking too long to get away from defenders.”

‘Take criticism’
Had he heard about it?

“Someone may have mentioned it to me, yeah.”


“As a Gaelic footballer and hurler in Ireland, you have to be able to take criticism. Every player is going to get criticism down the line. You just have to take it in your stride. I suppose he hadn’t seen me play much, really. But he’s a legend of the game and if he could come back and tell me, I’d like to listen to him. What he thinks I can improve on.

“You just take stuff like that in your stride all the time as an intercounty footballer. It could be from your Dad. It could be from your manager. Listen to them, take it on board. See can you improve your game and take it in your stride as well because I’m only 19 and please God, I’ll have a long career in GAA. I have to build a thick enough neck.”

Equally hard to ruffle is Joe Canning, who, along with Kilkenny, Marc Ó Sé and Neil McGee, was in Croker yesterday to launch a GAA initiative to support the Irish language this summer.

Canning was predictably careful when talking about the Laois game coming up on the weekend, paying them all due respect and so on. He was more expansive on the prospect of hurling teams aping the growing trend in football whereby players have ramped up their efforts to put off free-takers by encroaching and jibber-jabbering at them.

“It’s just an edge that teams try to get now,” said Canning. “More so in football, where frees are critical to score from because it’s so hard to score with the blanket defence. Any edge you can get by putting off the free-taker works for them obviously. You get those kinds of things, but that’s part and parcel of it. You try to block those things out and get on with it.

“It doesn’t really bother me. If you let it bother you, say something back and then miss the free, you feel like a right gobshite. It shows the competitiveness – they want to win and if that puts the free-taker off and he misses, that’s a point less against your own team. In a way you can see why they try to do it. It happens in all sports, not just hurling or football.”