Ciarán Kilkenny's strong Galway connections
By Cian O'Connell
There was always something about the maroon and white jersey for Ciarán Kilkenny. Both of Kilkenny’s grandad’s Patrick Kilkenny (Ballymacward) and Jarlath Corcoran (Caherlistrane) are from the west.
Then there is the family connection with Sean Purcell, widely regarded as the greatest Galway footballer of them all, who is a first cousin of John Kilkenny- Ciaran’s father.
Nora Kilkenny, a sister of Ciaran’s grandfather Patrick, was the mother of Purcell, fondly regarded as The Master, who passed away in 2005. Purcell and Frank Stockwell inspired Galway to All Ireland glory in 1956 and a significant mark was made on the maroon game.
Galway gleaned two All Ireland titles in 1998 and 2001 with Kilkenny keenly monitoring how that team developed during his childhood. “I would have looked a lot at the 1998 and 2001 Galway teams when I was younger,” Kilkenny said during a recent Leinster GAA Beko Club Bua Awards launch.
“I would have watched Pat Comer’s video ‘A year til Sunday.’ I would have really idolised a lot of the players on that team.”
That was a splendid era for Galway football with current manager Kevin Walsh a commanding centrefield presence. Relegated from Division One in 2011 Galway returned to the top tier and ended up playing Dublin twice in three weeks.
It is why Kilkenny derived such satisfaction from a stint in Carna during the spring when he finally got the chance to play against Galway in a competitive encounter. “Carna, where I was, is a very proud, proud, area in Connemara,” Kilkenny says about a spirited outfit Carna-Caiseal, who contested the Galway County Senior Final in 2005.
Emigration has hit the area hard in the intervening years. “The whole of Carna would generally speak Irish and I suppose the views and everything around there are brilliant, so it was great to get involved with the local club team there,” Kilkenny stated.
“I would have been down to Carraroe. I would have known Sean O Domhnaill - go down to see them then as well.It’s actually really unique and special for me to go down and see the teams doing their warm ups, doing their training through Irish as well.
“You need to keep the Irish beo, through social things such as playing football or hurling or dancing, or that kind of stuff. So, it was great to see how proud they were and it was a great opportunity for me to improve my Irish and to be able to speak it daily as well.”
The stint in the Gaeltacht was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the accomplished Castleknock clubman. “I was doing it through college, but it was kind of a holiday as well, because we were doing so many fun activities through Irish,” Kilkenny remarked.
“You kind of do classes in the morning on grammar and in the afternoon you generally do fun activities – I was doing a bit of Sean-nós Irish dancing. Or, you could be doing drumming. Fun kind of stuff and you are getting exposed to really cool things that are around the area as well. My phone broke for four or five days so I got the full experience of being down there and engaging and it was brilliant.”