Young star quits to play for free

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 11 Januari 2013 | 14.43

ONE of the brightest young stars of Gaelic games has turned his back on AFL stardom, saying professional sport couldn't match the "satisfaction" he gets from playing for free at home.

Ciaran Kilkenny has announced his departure from Hawthorn just weeks after moving to Australia, saying the passion he has for his indigenous sports could never be matched by playing footy.

The 19-year-old, who made a huge impact for the Dublin senior Gaelic footballers last season, thanked the Hawks but said the lure of home meant he could not give the 100% commitment the club required.

In a statement, the teenager said that while he had relished the challenge of taking on a different code, "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.

"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 (hurling ball).

"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."

Kilkenny played both hurling and Gaelic football for Dublin at underage level, and had been earmarked as a potential great in either code, especially after his explosive debut season at senior level, when his side reached the All Ireland semi-final.

Hawthorn signed Kilkenny as an international rookie shortly after that game and he began training with the squad on the players' return for pre-season at the end of November.

When his move was announced last September, Kilkenny spoke of returning to Ireland in about "six to eight years", before homesickness got the better of him more rapidly than he expected.

Hawthorn's recruiting manager Graham Wright said the club was disappointed with Kilkenny's decision, but respected his reasons for making it.

"While we're extremely disappointed, we respect and accept Ciarán's decision at this time," Wright told the club's website.

"Ciarán transitioned into the club well, enjoyed all aspects of training and all of his feedback was positive, so news of his decision was quite unexpected.

"We understand that ultimately the pull of home in Ireland; his family, friends, football and hurling was a significant factor in Ciarán's decision, which was easier to accept having acknowledged that our club and its members demand a degree of commitment and dedication from every player on the Hawthorn list."

The Hawks will have a new international rookie on their list later this year after committing to New Zealand junior rugby star Shem Tatupu.

Tempu is not eligible to join the club until after the draft in November but the 17-year-old has already agreed to a three-year contract.

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