Ciarán Kilkenny a major asset in Dublin’s evolving game plan

Adapting to different positions a welcome challenge for Castleknock club man

Ciarán Kilkenny in Croke Park at the launch of the 2018 Beko Club Bua award scheme, Leinster GAA’s accreditation and health check system for clubs in the province. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Anyone who thinks these Dublin footballers just shift seamlessly between positions is probably wrong.

In talking about his move into full forward this season Ciarán Kilkenny suggests it’s more than just a number on the back too.

Changes in power-to-weight ratio may not be as conspicuous as in order sports, only in scoring 2-16 during Dublin’s latest league-winning campaign Kilkenny admits there have been some subtle changes to his game.

Though having served in three previous lines, including half back, full forward still seems as comfortable as any.

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“If you are playing half back, or around the middle area, a lot of that would be based on athleticism and endurance,” says Kilkenny. “Closer to goal there is more agility, speed, and you still need that level of athleticism.

“But you do need that kind of strength and power that you are able to provide an option inside for a pass, or hold off your man. It’s just about getting that balance that you are not too powerful but you are balancing that athleticism and power piece, and the strength piece is really important for that, yeah.”

Kilkenny remains on top of his game; still only 24, his once promising dual ambitions may be over at county level, but he still lines out for his club Castleknock in hurling. And with some lingering doubts over if or when Diarmuid Connolly will return to the Dublin forward line, Kilkenny is likely to be seen closer to goal this summer too.

“As a player it’s good to sample all the different areas,” says Kilkenny, speaking at the Beko sponsorship of the Leinster Club Bua Awards at Croke Park. “You get to play so many different roles for the team and this year I was lucky enough to be close to the goal.

“So I was getting into more offensive positions. I suppose it’s just adding another layer to my game, so from my own individual development it’s good to play close to the goal and learn the challenges that you face playing in that line as well. I really enjoyed it and I’m just willing to play wherever the team needs me to play.”

Real preference

“And the fact I’m close to goal it poses a different challenge because you probably need a little bit more, from my own self, kind of size, getting the balance between having power and still having athleticism, so that poses a challenge. I would have had experience playing at underage level so it’s good to have that layer to my game as well.

“But I have no real preference really. I just enjoy being in the kind of heat of the battle in a game and whatever position I’d need to pay I love to play there because that means I will be in the thick of the things and be able to contribute to a team performance, and hopefully to win that battle.”

Dublin’s league final over Galway was all about that, extra sweet for Kilkenny too given his Galway connections. He recently completed a Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge placement in Carna in Connemara as part of his primary school teaching degree, and he definitely considers Galway one of Dublin’s main challengers this summer.

“They still have the Corofin lads to come back, and they have such a great balance between a serious defensive system and also a serious offensive team as well, and the athleticism they have is incredible. The tradition and belief they have is really strong as well.”

Sean Purcell was also a cousin of his father.

“And both my grandfathers would have been from Caherlistrane, Ballymacward and a lot of my aunties and uncles would have been living in the Claddagh, Barna. Then I’d be distant relations of the two girls that would have played camogie for Galway as well – Niamh and Orla Kilkenny. So I’d have a strong connection with Galway.”