Buckley taking all the challenges in his stride

2012 has already been a marquee year for Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley, the year he made the breakthrough to senior.

Could be though that even with an All-Ireland senior final to come, a possible All-Ireland U21 final just a week later, this particular week is the marquee week in that year.

In just the 18th minute of last Sunday’s senior semi-final against Tipperary, Kilkenny midfielder Michael Rice suffered a nasty injury. In came Cillian and he gave an exhibition, a seamless transition as he and Michael Fennelly went on to dominate that sector.

With the unfortunate Rice now almost certain to miss the final, Cillian is first in line for a starting berth.

First, however, there’s the little matter of an U21 game against Galway.

“With the injury to Michael I just went in as a blood-sub first,” he said.

“The transfer was quick enough. I got my warm-up running down the steps, that was it. From minute one a player can be thrown into the match. We have to be prepared, there are no excuses. I was as ready as anyone else I suppose.

“It’s hugely unfortunate for Michael Rice, he’s a huge leader in our team. Whatever part he plays in the All-Ireland final, whether it be on the pitch or as a true leader in the dressing-room you can be sure he will be there for us.”

It does open up that massive possibility for Cillian but, in typical Kilkenny fashion, he will be taking today just as seriously as last Sunday.

“No, no, going out to a match and trying to prevent yourself from getting injured you are starting off on the wrong slate altogether.

“I will treat this as though it’s as important a match as I will play all year, and it is. When we started off the Leinster campaign we were going to have another shot at the Galway U21s who actually beat us three years ago in the 2009 All-Ireland minor final, so this group of players really has something to stand up for.”

It’s not the first time this year Cillian has gone straight from senior action to U21 duty. It happened also a few weeks ago when, with both Fennelly and Rice out through injury, he started the Leinster final in midfield with Paddy Hogan.

Just a few evenings later came the Leinster U21 final, Kilkenny meeting a much-fancied Laois team in Portlaoise. It was a massacre, 4-24 to 1-13. It was also just what the doctor had ordered for Cillian and the three others from the senior panel, Richie Doyle, Willie Phelan and Walter Walsh.

“I managed to kick myself back into gear on the Wednesday night against Laois. We came out on the right side of that and I got myself back on track, winning that Leinster championship, especially after what had happened the weekend before against Galway. That made it more of a challenge, we were more eager to go out and win that one.”

GALWAY: F Flannery; B Flaherty, D Burke, J Grealish; J Coen, D Burke, J Cooney; P Brehony, T Haran; R Cummins, N Burke, J Regan; C Cooney, J Glynn, D Glennon.

KILKENNY: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng; G Brennan, O Walsh; K Kelly, P Walsh, C Buckley; W Walsh, J Power, G Aylward.

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