Kilkenny has “massive respect” for rivals Derry

By Shaun Casey

DUBLIN footballer Ciaran Kilkenny says he has “massive respect” for All-Ireland contenders Derry and like the rest of the country, is excited to watch their clash with Donegal this weekend.

Mickey Harte and Jim McGuinness renew their acquisitions on the sideline and Kilkenny, who has played against Derry four times in the past two seasons, believes the Oakleafers are an “unbelievable team.”

“I have massive respect for Derry, they’re an unbelievable team and an unbelievable county,” said the eight-time All-Ireland winner. “Even the tradition that they have in the game and obviously Glen are very successful having won the Club All-Ireland.

“There’s a serious buzz and energy in Derry at the moment and we’ve had loads of competitive games against them. They beat us in Celtic Park last year, obviously they were missing a lot of players when we played them before the league final this year.

“We obviously played them in the Division Two final last year as well so they’re a very good side and as a competitor you want to play against the best teams, so we love playing them.”

Kilkenny was involved in the recent Division One league final encounter when Dublin and Derry served up a classic contest. The Castleknock clubman was the only Dublin forward that didn’t score on the day as Derry captured the title after a penalty shootout.

The 30-year-old, who has six All-Stars to his name, believes that meeting with Derry was “the best preparation” possible ahead of the championship and Dublin kick-started their campaign with a handsome victory over Meath last weekend.

“It was an unbelievable game to be involved in,” added Kilkenny. “To be honest, it was the best preparation you could probably get leading into a championship campaign from so many different points of view.

“From a tactical point of view, from a physical point of view and I suppose from a mindset point of view as well. You look at it that you’re getting 100 minutes in Croke Park and I think the pace of the game was phenomenal, it was end to end. From everything that went around the actual game then, the fact it went to extra-time, the fact it went to penalties and the fact that there was so much learning for us as well. I don’t think you could have any better preparation than playing against a serious side like Derry.”

Kilkenny admits he will be tuning into Derry’s Ulster Championship opener with Donegal this weekend and is looking forward to the spectacle served up. “I’d be a massive fan, so I’ll definitely be tuning into that if it doesn’t clash with training.

“I’ll be looking forward to any of the games that are on TV, any game that’s on I’d watch it. Any Gaelic game that’s on I’ll watch and I think Derry and Donegal is going to be a titanic battle and I think everyone is really looking forward to that one.”

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