It’s very easy to forget that Castleknock and Dublin attacker Ciaran Kilkenny is still only 25.
To look at Jim Gavin’s bench for the All Ireland Football Final and some of the legendary talent on it is again a testament to the young players that are fighting for starting positions.
Bernard Brogan (34), Paul Flynn (32), Michael Darragh Macauley (33), McManamon (33), O’Gara (33), Daly (32), Paddy Andrews (31) and Michael Fitzsimons (30). All well established seniors, laiden with Championship medals and the experience to boot.
So what keeps them around the Dublin set up? The bond that has been forged by Jim Gavin. Between the older players and the lads that have come through over the years. The sense of brotherhood.
It’s a common thread among interviews with many current Dublin players that no squad members ever wants to stop. You only have to look at players like Eoghan O’Gara, Kevin McManamon and Darren Daly. To see that just being a bit player is as important as being a regular starter. And that’s the difference between Dublin, and the chasing pack.
Ciaran Kilkenny told the Examiner yesterday of the respect and admiration the new breed have for these still iconic players.
“All these guys are exceptional individuals and, as you seen this year, when they got their opportunity they performed very well so we’re very fortunate to have these guys.”
“We’re around each other all the time. You see each other more than you see your families.”
“It’s a massive part of our lives and you just want to be a part of it as long as you can and that’s my view of it anyway. I know myself I’ll be a bit lost when it’s all over.”
For Kilkenny, there’s a massive sense of reassurance that when they’ve given 100% on the field that the lads on the bench, whoever they might be, can come on and finish the job. And there’s also a realism of how far this group of players has come.
The Rise To Stardom
In 2011 Dublin’s Minor Panel contained Ciaran, Jack McCaffrey, Eric Lowndes, Paul Mannion, John Small, Niall Scully and Cormac Costello. And they weren’t good enough to win an All Ireland.
When Tipperary lifted the Tom Markham Cup, Ciaran and Jack McCaffrey made a promise to go one better next time. There was know way back then they’d have known what was in the future. All Ireland U21 Champions, and then slowly bled into the current Senior set up. Their names are now forever etched into the annals of Dublin footballing history.
Since capturing their fourth consecutive All Ireland title, the cogs of despair have started to turn. Churning once again the argument of the amount of central funds given to Dublin over the last decade. An argument that has become commonplace following a Dublin success.
We’ve spoken already of the O’Gara’s Daly’s and McManamon’s of this world, but their longevity in the squad doesn’t seem to have any bearing on this now age old debate.
“From my perspective, it’s down to all the hard work that goes on.” Ciaran admits.
“For example, the influence that Dessie (Farrell) would have had on us. He’s a past player who’s representing his county. He was a massive role model for us, to have someone and the amount of guys that have given back their time at underage level and even at their own clubs.”
“You see our management and people that are involved in our management team and the work that they put on at their own club level.”
“It’s down to the goodwill of people that are giving their time to help boys and girls develop as people and also develop as players as well and allow them to grow as individuals.”