Dublin footballer Ciarán Kilkenny is confident that the All-Ireland champions have the strength-in-depth to cope with the loss of the suspended Diarmuid Connolly.
Speaking as Sure launched their second season as the GAA’s official stats partners, Kilkenny spoke about the intense competition for places in Jim Gavin’s side, who hammered Westmeath by a mammoth 31 points in last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final.
Kilkenny, who scored one of Dublin’s four goals in the win, told The 16th Man podcast that the loss of Connolly will only give someone else a chance to shine in the sky blue shirt.
“Diarmuid is a serious talent but it’s great that we have a panel of 30 or 35 lads there who are all very good footballers,” Kilkenny said.
“It’s the same as any day, if I went off or if anyone went off, what’s valuable to us is that we know someone can come on and do the job just as good or even better on any given day, which is really good from a team aspect.
“There are six subs used generally in every game so it’s great to know that you have a cavalry coming on towards the end of the game,” he added, his point emphasised by the fact that both Eoghan O’Gara and Kevin McManamon both came off the bench to score goals in their emphatic Leinster semi-final win.
Kilkenny suggested that the players took no notice of Jim Gavin’s refusal to speak to some broadcast media outlets and is instead keeping his mind focused solely on the upcoming Leinster final meeting with an improving Kildare side.
“It is important to recover now and get prepared for Kildare which is going to be another serious challenge,” he said.
“Kildare look very good now. There were very impressive against Meath. They are a very physical side, they are very athletic, they’re very skilful – they’re a very good side, I’ve been impressed with them.”
Kildare have been strengthened by the return of Paddy Brophy, who spent time playing Aussie Rules, adding to a good young squad under the guidance of Cian O’Neill.
“They’ve had a couple of lads coming back from Australia, which has added more strength to them and they have a very good panel as well so it’s going to be a serious challenge,” added Kilkenny.
While the Dubs will be firm favourites on Leinster final day, Kildare are one county that won’t fear the men from the capital.
“I’ve played against a lot of the Kildare lads at under-age level and they’ve beat me and the lads a couple of times so there is a bit of a rivalry there which is good,” Kilkenny revealed, referencing the 2009 Leinster Minor Championship, where Kildare beat the Dubs twice.
However, Dublin have also added to their panel in the last year or two, most notably with Con O’Callaghan and Niall Scully joining the set-up.
“It’s brilliant (having them join us). I remember when I was a young lad coming in, you’re full of energy, full of innocence as well and it brings a certain buzz around the place. It’s great to see youth around the panel and the craic that goes on.
“The fact that it’s made more competitive brings a great buzz around the place.”
It is clear that Kilkenny and his teammates are doing everything in their power to keep their minds focused on retaining their All-Ireland title. Given the form they showed last Sunday, it will take some effort to stop them as they look for an incredible seventh Leinster SFC title in a row on July 16.
You can hear the full interview below:
Make sure to listen to this week’s episode of The 16th Man, where we hear from Richie Hogan, Dick Clerkin and Dara O’Cinnéide on his RTÉ series, GAA Nua.