DUBLIN DUAL STAR Ciarán Kilkenny has cut short his Aussie Rules experiment to return home to Ireland.
The Castleknock youngster, winner of an All-Ireland U21 football medal with the Dubs in May, announced this morning that he is leaving AFL side Hawthorn.
The return of one of the capital’s hottest prospects comes as a huge boost to new Dublin manager Jim Gavin as he prepares his panel for the beginning of the Allianz Football League campaign.
Kilkenny, 19, broke into the senior squad under Pat Gilroy last summer and made his first championship start in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo where he scored three points from play.
The decision to return home was motivated in no small part by his irreplaceable love of Gaelic games, Kilkenny said in a statement.
As much as I enjoyed the lifestyle of a professional Aussie Rules player and relished the challenge of achieving in a different code, I realised that it would never matter as much to me as the sense of community and joy I get from togging out and playing alongside the people with whom I grew up and live.
Achieving success and realising my potential as a hurler and footballer with my club and county will always be more important to me than any of the benefits to be obtained from professional sport.
It may seem like a short time to spend in Australia but I have always given absolute commitment to any team in which I was involved and I feel it would be unfair on both Hawthorn and myself to continue in a situation where I am not 100% committed and happy in myself.
He added: “I’ve come to realise also that although I enjoy the game of Australian Rules football, it could never replace the satisfaction I get from the round ball or a sliotar. Sport has always been something I did for enjoyment and I have found that it’s not something I can do merely because it’s my job. The passion I feel for hurling and football is not transferrable to any other sport and seeing my neighbours and team mates happy when we do well is reward enough.
“Going to live in Australia was never something I felt I had to do. I always said however that if I didn’t go I might have doubts or questions later on in life but having spent some time there now I’m happy that that those doubts and questions will not arise. Now I’m looking forward to getting back involved in what I feel truly passionate about, hurling and football with my club, and seeing where that takes me.”
Kilkenny’s return is also a massive boost for his club Castleknock as they are gearing up for their All-Ireland club junior football semi-final against Kerry side Kenmare Shamrocks in Mitchelstown on January 27th.