Kilkenny ready for AFL challenge
Former Dublin star and new AFL recruit Ciarán Kilkenny has said he is ready for the challenge of professional sport with Hawthorn in Australia.
In a wide-ranging interview with Seán Bán Breathnach, recorded for RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta shortly before he left Ireland, the underage dual star revealed he knows he has work to do but feels ready to take on a new sport.
Kilkenny said: "I really like the game of Australian Rules. It has a great mix of skill, strength and speed and that appeals to me.
"The tackle, and releasing the ball when tackled, are the main things that I will have to practise and learn. I don’t think it’s a rough game. I think I’m ready for it and I’ll be alright.
"I went in to do a bit of boxing with Billy Walsh and the Irish team and they were saying that I was big, but when I went on trial to Australia they were wondering if I was going to get taller!
"The players are so tall over there. I am 6’3, which is the average for a player over there. I would be one of the slighter players compared to the others in the squad, but I think I will be ok."
"When I went on trial to Australia they were wondering if I was going to get taller"
Kilkenny is also looking forward to the professional training regime, although he will not be able to compare the workout to Pat Gilroy’s famous early morning sessions with the Dublin footballers.
The Dublin footballer said: "Because I was doing the Leaving Cert I missed out on a lot of the winter training that the Dublin lads did under Pat Gilroy. I was lucky that I missed all those early morning sessions!
"In Australia there is a great emphasis on athletics in training. The emphasis they put on things like five kilometre runs is unbelievable. You have to have great aerobic endurance to play the game so they focus on that in training.
"They do a lot of other activities as part of training like boxing and swimming to get you ready for games. Because they play every week the body has to be in peak condition."
The Castleknock clubman also explained how difficult the decision to commit to a future in Australia had been, and believes that Dublin’s wealth of emerging talent means he will not be missed too badly.
Kilkenny stated: "It was a hugely difficult decision. I was changing my mind every second day. The decision to stay or go was hanging over me for a year and it was difficult, especially with the Leaving Cert. In the end I decided I did not want to look back in years to come and wonder what would have happened if I had gone to Australia.
"There are some great minor teams coming through, and the underage talent there is in Dublin is unreal, so I think they will be fine. Jim Gavin has already brought in a lot of the young lads into the senior football squad.
"It’s a good time for both football and hurling in Dublin right now."
Kilkenny admitted that, as departure day approached, it was difficult on a personal level for him to leave home, but that plans were already in place for him to return to Ireland soon and his parents and girlfriend will also be travelling to Australia.
"I am a bit sad to be leaving, but I will be back home for Christmas. There are blocks of time as well where my parents and girlfriend will be able to come out to Australia.
"With the technology nowadays it’s not like it was 10 years ago.
"With the likes of Skype, Twitter and Facebook it’s not as difficult to stay in touch as it was in the past."
The 19-year-old is also hopeful of emulating Kerry’s Tadhg Kennelly and returning in the future to win an All-Ireland medal, and will bring his experience in Australia to help his club Castleknock, who won the Leinster Junior Club Football Championship on Sunday.
"I’m going to give everything I have towards being a success in the AFL. I would like to come back at some stage but I do not know what the future holds for me.
"Hopefully I will be back in six or eight years time and I will be able to put an All-Ireland medal in my back pocket, and I will be back in the off seasons to play with the club and give them a hand in any way I can."