Castleknock's journey started in Tír na nÓg
By Cian O’Connell
“It was just a patch of grass - Tír na nÓg,” Ciarán Kilkenny laughs. In these exciting days with Castleknock established as a senior club in Dublin the 20 year journey is remarkable.
On Saturday Castleknock face Clontarf in an interesting Dublin SFC encounter and Kilkenny acknowledges how far the club has travelled since taking the first initial steps on a small bit of turf. That, though, is where the dream started, and an appreciation for Irish sport and culture was forged.
“It's a really, really iconic name to have with the club,” Kilkenny admits. “It was literally just a patch of grass. People went over, set up poles and cones, had bibs there and that's where it started.
“Then we would have went on and played games in Porterstown. Now we're fortunate enough that we have our own pitches in Somerton.”
The sheer, hard graft continues on and off the playing pitches in the capital for Castleknock. “We've just started the building of our clubhouse which will be a massive step for our club to have dressing rooms and somewhere that people can go in,” Kilkenny states.
“There is so many people who would have contributed to the club over the years, it'll be really nice to have that area for people to talk about old stories and have sandwiches and have the craic; hopefully improve and strengthen and unite the club even more.”
A strong spirit has been cultivated. Underage success hinted at a bright future and Castleknock have delivered reaching the 2016 Dublin SFC Final.
“A lot of the boys on the club team we would have played together all the way up, we would be very friendly, there is a great bond together,” Kilkenny adds.
“The fact that we are only two or three years senior is a really exciting piece. It has all the lads really upbeat, energetic, and motivated to do the best that we can.
“We are all getting to the age of 24, 25, and 26 so we need to keep that going, but also facilitate younger guys coming into the team, to help them improve as players and leaders in the club and get them to contribute to the club in the sense of helping out with teams, pushing the team on, and helping with the culture of the club.
“This is our 20th year anniversary which is a special year for the club. It would be nice if we can do well in the Championships and in underage level.”
How Castleknock have flared to prominence is remarkable bringing immense joy and satisfaction to Kilkenny, who has represented the club with distinction in the sky blue Dublin jersey.
“Yeah, big time, it is really inspiring,” Kilkenny acknowledges. Having been there at the very start, I was four or five years of age when the club started.
“To see the growth and development of the club at first hand, it has been incredible. How much the people involved in the club in a volunteering or playing capacity and in any capacity as a supporter as well, to see how it has developed and how it has brought the community closer together.
“The community spirit that is in the club is phenomenal really, it is a centre piece of the community. It is meaningful and fulfilling for me and any other player in the club. Wherever you go you see someone from the club and that friendliness and welcoming kind of buzz is there whenever you see someone.
“You get great energy out of seeing that person and knowing how involved they are with the club, to see the club go from Junior level, from Division 8, 9, and 10 to Division 1 at senior level has been really inspiring for a lot of people.”
“That isn't the most important thing, the most important thing is people are going there, they are being part of the community, they are making friends, they are having exercise, playing football and hurling and they are immersing themselves in Irish culture as well.”
Kilkenny highlights how those involved in Castleknock try to assist young players. “The club organises a lot of different other events, one in particular is Comortas 7 a taobh, a sevens tournament that is celebrated throughout Seachtain Na Gaeilge,” Kilkenny remarks.
“There are also nights provided for students doing the Leaving Certificate where they can practice their Irish as well with a ciorcal comhrá.
“There are so many different strands to the club, it is really helping the community in different aspects as well. That is really inspiring and gives you great satisfaction, it is very heartwarming to see the goodwill around the club.”
The 2018 Dublin SFC commences for Castleknock against Clontarf, who are without talisman Jack McCaffrey, but Kilkenny still expects a demanding assignment.
“Clontarf are a very exciting team, they have a lot of young players in their team, who would have played Under 21 for Dublin over the last number of years,” Kilkenny states.
“It is going to be a very competitive game. This new format provides a serious competition in terms of playing against very serious, well drilled, competitive teams in every game. You will have to perform to the best of your ability if you want to win those games.
“We will be playing Clontarf this weekend, then we will be playing St Brigid's after that, they are a serious team as well. There is a local rivalry there so that will be an interesting game to be involved in.”
The other team in Castleknock’s tough group is Ballymun Kickhams, who are sprinkled with Dublin stars. “Ballymun are probably the strongest team in the group so that will provide a good challenge,” Kilkenny replies.
“Obviously it will be great craic playing against six or seven of the lads that are playing in the Dublin team. There will be great banter and craic playing against them as well, three really competitive games and we will be really lucky if we can get out of the group because it is a tough group to be in.”
Two decades ago in Tír na nÓg Castleknock wondered about performing in these type of matches. The story continues.