I watched back Dublin’s six all Ireland wins since 2013 and some semi finals too , this team will go down as the best ever obviously it has evolved and is full of unbelievable players but I’ve decided to focus on one man who is the heartbeat of everything they do.
Ciaran Kilkenny was an underage dual star for Dublin as a minor before turning his attention to the big ball. In 2012 he scored 2-30 on the way to winning the under 21 all Ireland final for Dublin. He caught the eye of AFL club Hawthorn who wanted to bring him to Australia to pursue a professional career, u21 manager at the time Dessie Farrell said it would be a shame if we won’t get to see the player that Ciaran can be, wasn’t he right? After just four months in Australia Kilkenny decided that the joy of playing with people he grew up with meant more to him than any professional lifestyle.
“As much as I enjoyed the lifestyle of a professional Aussie Rules player and relished the challenge of achieving in a different code, I realised that it would never matter as much to me as the sense of community and joy I get from togging out and playing alongside the people with whom I grew up and live. Achieving success and realising my potential as a hurler and footballer with my club and county will always be more important to me than any of the benefits to be obtained from professional sport.”
He made his championship debut that year in the all Ireland semi final scoring 0-3 as Dublin went down to mayo this was one of only two defeats he has suffered in championship football for the dubs. In 2013 his first all Ireland came aged just 20 he didn’t have his best game and was replaced after 42 minutes as Dublin defeated mayo but this was only the beginning for him.
Disaster struck for Kilkenny in a national league game in 2014 when he ruptured his cruciate ligament ruling him out for the remainder of that season. Dublin would go down to Donegal in the semi final which is still their last championship defeat.
Dublin learned a valuable lesson in that semi final loss to Donegal they got sucked into Donegals web and they were turned over and hit on the counter attack time and time again. This game set the blueprint for Dublins 5 in a row charge. They still continue to attack and press up on teams but it’s much smarter and controlled now the gaping holes Donegal found in their defence are a distant memory. Jason sherlock was introduced to their backroom team and he brought a basketball element to their play if teams want to put 15 men behind the ball Dublin will be Patient and hold onto the ball until a gap appears rather than forcing it and giving the opposition the turnovers they want. There was no better man to execute this game plan than Ciaran Kilkenny he is an incredibly clever player who rarely makes the wrong decision on the ball, he never hides and always takes on responsibility, over the years when the game was in the melting pot he is the man Dublin looked for to relieve the pressure. In 2015 he was back to full fitness and cemented his place In the Dublin attack winning his second all ireland in a low scoring game vs Kerry this would also lead to his first all star.
In the 2016 drawn all Ireland final vs Mayo on three occasions late on he was the deepest Dublin outfield player, collected the ball off Cluxton and was trusted to do the right thing including the very last play of the game in the 78th minute when Cillian O’Connor had just levelled the game.
Then in the replay Cillian O’connor tapped over a free to leave a single point between the teams in the 74th minute mayo had the press on Dublin’s kickout but Kilkenny darted into a pocket of space to ease the pressure once again.
Time is up , last play of the game possession is vital Cluxton has nowhere to go so he smashes it long
Kilkenny goes to the sky over Tom Parsons and plucks the ball out of the air and that’s it game over.
In the 2017 final the game was a draw with 4 minutes left he dispossessed Paddy Durcan on his own full back line Dublin then went down the other end to go one in front
Two minutes to go still a draw he shows for a kickout and retains possession at a crucial time
After Dean Rock kicked that famous free mayo had time for one more play but he made sure Lee Keegan wasn’t getting the kickout short
He took his time leaving the field so Dublin could get a sub on and the call was “drop” to his teammates as Dublin got over the line in yet another all Ireland final
With every successful player then comes the critics there was a narrative going around that all he done was keep possession , handpass backwards and laterally and he wasn’t really doing much, the reason why he didn’t get on the scoreboard as much was because he was sacrificing himself for the team as a workhorse at wing forward often finding himself back in his own defence and being a provider for his teammates. He is an all rounder if you want him to stay closer to goal and hurt the opposition with his strength and ability to kick off both feet he can do that too and the stats prove that. From the 2018 championship to now he has scored 4-54 all from play. Fairly silencing anyone who said all he can do is handpass.
In the 2018 final Dublin got off to a bad start and only had one point on the board before Kilkenny settled them down with a beauty from 40 metres
Then he was alive to intercept Niall Morgans kickout which led to Dublin scoring a goal to level the match
Tiernan McCann was given the unenviable task of following the Castleknock machine around Croke park that day , he was still full of running in the 75th minute as he got up to clip over his fourth point of the day
Mayo were leading Dublin by two points at half time in the 2019 semi final until straight after the break Kilkenny landed a 20 yard handpass straight into Con O’Callaghan’s chest and he buried it to put Dublin on their way to another final
In the 2019 drawn final against Kerry he made a vital tackle as he turned over David Moran in injury time, Dublin then went down the other end and levelled the match
There was 7 minutes of added time that day and Dublin were down to 14 men , Kilkenny showed outstanding leadership and game management he had 10 possessions in those 7 minutes as he minded the ball and made sure Dublin would get another day out to complete the five in a row
In the replay he put in a man of the match display scoring 0-4 and producing this brilliant block on Jack Sherwood
If you could build a footballer in the morning you would build Ciaran Kilkenny he’s got two hands , two feet , a bottomless engine he’s as strong as an ox and always makes the right decision. He’s a proper Gael fluent in Irish and he entertained every kid in the country for six weeks with skill challenges during the lockdown.
6 All Ireland’s
5 National Leagues
3 All stars
Still only 27
Hawthorns loss is Dublin’s Gain
Ciaran Kilkenny, a national treasure.