CHAM­PI­ONSHIP Ea­ger Kilkenny en­joy­ing best years of his life

Fingal Independent - - SPORT - BY RORY KERR

AS one of the coun­try’s top un­der­age dual stars Ciaran Kilkenny was al­ways des­tined for suc­cess.

Nonethe­less, the Castle­knock man has never taken it for granted and main­tains all the en­thu­si­asm of some­one start­ing out as he pre­pares for Dublin’s big show­down with Mayo this com­ing Sun­day.

‘It only seems like yes­ter­day I was start­ing my first game for Dublin against Mayo in the All-ire­land semi-final and they beat us,’ he re­called.

‘That was five years ago - I was only 19 at the time.

‘In my first full year in 2013 I was lucky enough to be in­volved in an All-ire­land-win­ning team and the year af­ter that I did in my cru­ci­ate.

‘I’m in my mid 20s, so you just have to en­joy it and en­joy the lads in your company. You only get a limited amount of time to play for Dublin and it’s the best years of your life.

‘So you just have to ap­pre­ci­ate it as much as you can and be thank­ful for the peo­ple that have got you there in the first place, the peo­ple you grew up with, your men­tors, your par­ents.

‘Sun­day will see Kilkenny com­pete in his fourth final, and while all the talk is about the three-in-a-row, Kilkenny be­lieves the slate has been wiped clean this year.

‘The way I look at it, a new group comes in at the start of ev­ery year. 2017 has been a new jour­ney for us, we have dif­fer­ent play­ers in­volved, there’s been a dif­fer­ent man­age­ment set-up. It’s a new jour­ney and a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me, so this is an­other All-ire­land final. That’s the way I look at it.’

And asked if suc­cess dulled his com­pet­i­tive­ness, the an­swer was an em­phatic no.

‘I love that feel­ing of go­ing out there and giv­ing it your all and play­ing play by play. You’re just so in that bub­ble. It’s the heat of bat­tle, it’s Croke Park, the adrenalin is go­ing, the en­ergy is go­ing.’

Sun­day’s game is the lat­est in­stal­ment be­tween these two sides, with Dublin need­ing a sec­ond game to over­come Mayo in an epic re­play in 2016 when Cor­mac Costello and Bernard Bro­gan came off the bench to seal the western­ers’ fate.

And Kilkenny be­lieves Dublin’s strength on the bench has a huge im­pact for the team as a whole.

‘The beauty about this squad is that you can go out and work as hard and it’s great to know that when you’re ab­so­lutely spent you know that some­one is go­ing to come on and do equally or an even bet­ter job than you for the team and that’s such a re­as­sur­ing thing.

‘That you can give it your all for 40 or 50 min­utes or what­ever it is - and that some­one else will do that same job. We have 35 play­ers who can do that.’

This sea­son has seen a chang­ing of the guard in many re­spects, with es­tab­lished play­ers like Paul Flynn, Kevin Mcmana­mon, Eoghan O’gara and the afore­men­tioned Bro­gan all watch­ing from the bench dur­ing Dublin’s de­mo­li­tion of Ty­rone last month.

But Kilkenny be­lieves that it’s a case of all for one and one for all as Dublin chase a third con­sec­u­tive All-ire­land this com­ing Sun­day.

‘There’s such a unity in the team - that lads are there, they are com­pet­ing for places, they are play­ing so hard, they are com­pet­ing so hard. But that man will be the first man if a lad gets ahead of him in the start­ing fif­teen to shake his hand and shake it firmly and say best of luck in the game.

‘And they will mean it gen­uinely and sin­cerely and that’s the buzz that we have.’

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