Former Kilburn Gaels forward Keith Killilea, who has been recognised for their achievements as the club went to Croke Park with inclusion in a Team of the Season, talks to David Hennessy about his decision to hurl with home club Gort for this campaign.
“Hopefully down the road again, we might get back there,” says Keith Killilea of Kilburn Gaels that he has recently transferred from. “Hopefully I’ll get back with them.”
Keith was one of the stand out performers for Kilburn as they went all the way to Croke Park for the final of the Intermediate Club Championship, where Keith scored two goals in Kilburn’s narrow defeat.
Keith, along with Brian Regan and Kris Finnegan, have transferred from Kilburn Gaels back to home club Gort. Gort made the semi-finals of the Senior All-Ireland Club final where they were eliminated by eventual winners Ballyhale of Kilkenny: “I was at that (Ballyhale) match, so was Brian (Regan) and Kris Finnegan who was in goal with Kilburn. We kind of said after that match that we would go back to Gort, back to the club and see could we win a county final and maybe progress on to an All-Ireland stage with them.
“We were back when they won the county final and you would feel like you’re missing out although we won our county final with Kilburn and progressed onto the All-Ireland final.
“It kind of means more although it meant a lot to me this year to win what we did with Kilburn. With the lads at home, they’re like your brothers because you’ve hurled with them all the way up. That’s why I made the decision to go back this year and hopefully it will be the right one.”
Was it a tough decision for Keith who is still based in London to hurl back at home? “It was and it wasn’t. The whole commuting over and back, you find it tough. It does take it’s toll but hopefully it will all be worth it.”
Kilburn have lost James Egan in addition to the three Gort men but have welcomed back William Hoyne as well as a few other newcomers: “I think Kilburn have a good team this year even with the few that have left. It would be great to see Kilburn getting back there again this year and we would be fully behind them as well.”
“It means a lot to be hurling with the group of players that I’ve been hurling with since I started. It is a lot of commitment and for the club as well. It’s expensive for them because they’re paying for the flights over and back. Can you put in the training here and make sure you’re playing well when you go home? You don’t want them to be saying, ‘why are this flying this lad back?’
Keith’s rocket of a shot from Mark O’Dwyer’s pass beat Chris McDonnell in the Ulster team’s goal to bring Kilburn back into although they trailed by 1-6 to 1-3. With ten minutes left on the clock, Killilea again found the net from a tight angle to make it a one point game, 1-7 to 2-3. Unfortunately for Killilea and Tom Bergin’s team, it was the Ulster champions that were able to find the next decisive score and make sure of victory.
It was his goal scoring exploits that saw Killilea presented with man of the match on the day and even more recently honoured with inclusion in the Gaelic Life Club Team of the Year. Keith Killilea joins Kilkenny hurlers Henry Shefflin, TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly in the hurling team selected by a combination of expert panel and public votes.
“To be honest, it was unexpected,” Keith says of this honour.
“One of my mates Facebooked it onto me. I didn’t have a clue. But it was nice to get it: A nice way to finish off the year for Kilburn.”
Would it be true that winning such individual accolades would not make up for the heartbreak of losing the final? “Yeah, it’s true. When you’re going playing the games like that, you’re expecting to finish it out but I suppose that’s what keeps us playing sport, the winning and the losing keeps you going.
“I was gutted that we didn’t win it but we’d a good year and we did well to get that far.
Kilburn became only the third English team to go all the way to Croke Park, after Robert Emmetts in 2007 and St Gabriel’s in 2013, as they defeated Kilkenny and Leinster champions Mullinavat and Galway and Connacht champs Cappataggle.