Jim McGuinness reckons Ciaran Kilkenny is primed and ready to replace Diarmuid Connolly as Dublin’s playmaker.
With more news at the weekend of fan favourite Diarmuid Connolly lining out with Donegal Boston for the first time, playing against Connemara Gaels, the Dublin supporters have resigned themselves to a summer without their beloved attacker.
And with a League title and three championship games under their belts, including their eight successive Leinster Championship, the Dublin Senior Footballers are also getting used to a summer without Connolly.
But all is not lost, as a number of Dublin starters have already stood up to be counted, with some outstanding performances. One particular name that’s on everyone’s lips is Castleknock star Ciaran Kilkenny.
Not that we shouldn’t expect the best from the 24 year old, considering he already has four League, five Leinster and four All Ireland Medals, but his performances and overall presence this year so far, has his name touted as an early front runner for Player Of The Year.
In ten League and Championship games this year, Ciaran has already registered 4-33, with his highest return being in the Leinster Quarter Final clash with Wicklow in Portlaoise. That day he was Dublin’s top scorer with a personal tally of 1-07.
And with Connolly now safely tucked away on the other side of the ocean, former Donegal manager and Sky Sports pundit Jim McGuinness believes Kilkenny is poised to set the Championship alight in Connolly’s absence.
Former Donegal Boss Backs Kilkenny
Speaking at a NOW TV event last week following Dublin Leinster Final win, McGuinness admitted that Kilkenny seems ready to step up.
“Dublin will face that crunch moment this summer.” he confessed
“The question then is will somebody step up in (Connolly’s) absence, with leadership, with authority and be able to go, ‘You know what, I’m going to be the guy today who takes the team over the line’. I think that moment will come.”
“You could lean towards the middle of the park (for leadership) but normally it should be a forward who points the direction.”
And he’s not wrong as we’ve witnessed Ciaran Kilkenny grow into the role of the orchestrator of Dublin’s many forms of attack. His movement off the ball is as impressive as when he’s soloing the ball through a gap between midfield and the forward line. All the while directing traffic around him.
Interestingly, Jim see Ciaran akin to another GAA star, one he’s very familiar with.
“I always have this parallel thing between Ciaran and Patrick McBrearty, same age profile, huge stars and big names at a very young age. A lot of expectation on them. Just watching the two of them over this season, you’re just thinking, ‘Wow, both of them are absolutely at their peak’.
“Both of them had a huge influence on both games last Sunday. So I think Ciaran Kilkenny will possibly be the guy who will have to carry that burden.”
Dublin Super 8’s Opinion
Not one to sit on any fence, McGuinness made these comments days after criticising the decision grant Dublin two games in Croke Park as part of the new upcoming Super 8 All Ireland phase and suggested that Dublin could ask for one of those ties be played in a neutral venue.
With Donegal capturing the Ulster Championship title, that put them into Group 2 of the new competition stage with Dublin, and both sides are pencilled in to meet in Croke Park on either July 14th or 15th. Shortly after the GAA confirmed that Dublin’s third game, against Roscommon or the team that beats them in Round 4 of the qualifiers, will be a home tie for Jim Gavin’s side.
As it stands, Croke Park will host five of the twelve matches including Dublin’s first and last game. The remaining four spots will be decided in round four of the qualifiers when the provincial losers play the round three qualifier winners.
But McGuinness believes that the prospect of two Croke Park games for Dublin is unfair and hopes that it won’t be the case. Not that a change of venue would have any bearing on any game.
“I think that’s a mistake definitely, I do, I really believe that’s a mistake.” he said on Sky Sports. “I think a lot of the talk about the restructures of the championship was because it was all leaning towards Dublin and gave Dublin an unfair advantage with all the games in Croke Park. Then you’ve this new dynamic in the Super 8s.”
After this weekend Dublin and Donegal will know exactly who their remaining group opponents will be and then the talking can begin.