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Saturday 20 December 2014

I'm eager to break Rules

HAWTHORN signing Ciaran Kilkenny has admitted that he will be somewhat disappointed if he doesn't make his Australian Football League debut in his first season down under.

While the former Dublin dual star is realistic about his chances of doing that, at a club that contested the Grand Final last year, he can't help but hope that he follows in the footsteps of players like Collingwood's Caolan Mooney of Down, who made the breakthrough in year one.

"In a small sense I would be (disappointed). But I'm in a new country, it's a new atmosphere, with new plays (to learn), a new ball so it's hard," he said.

"But I do have aspirations to play (in the first year). I just need to learn the basics though.

"It's all about development now and maybe if things are going well I might get a game."

Breaking into

While he has set realistic expectations at this early stage of his Aussie Rules career, his long-term ambition is clear and the Castleknock teenager insisted that rather than be put off by the challenge of breaking into such a successful side, Hawthorn's status as a top AFL team was one of the main attractions.

"They are a team with great aspirations of success who compete on a weekly basis. That really attracted me to the club because I want to win. I'd love to get my hands on a Grand Final (trophy) one day."

AFL clubs' interest in signing Kilkenny sparked a year of speculation regarding his future in the build-up to his decision and he revealed it wasn't an easy time for him and his family.

"It was pretty difficult as I was studying for my exams, my leaving cert, and every week I would get asked 'Are you going to play AFL?'

"It was hard on my family as well. It was a relief in the end when the news broke and I'm glad I made the decision.

"I spent a lot of time watching (Australian Football League) on TG4 and ESPN. When you're growing up you want sport to be your job. I just didn't want to have any regrets," he added.

Kilkenny said that like many other Irish recruits before him, he expects to start his career as a half-back but hopes to develop into a half-forward or even a midfielder later in his career.

He's had plenty of help so far from Irish players who have made the transition to the oval code before him.

"Nicholas Walsh (former Cavan player/Melbourne Demons rookie), Tadhg Kennelly and Setanta O hAilpin have been great.

"They've told me what I should be expecting and about their experiences."

He's also been spending quite a bit of time with the aforementioned Mooney (mainly on the golf course) as he tries to distract himself from the most difficult part of his move - being so far from family and close friends.

"Moving away from your family and your girlfriend is the most difficult thing.

"That as well as the new ball, learning to try to bounce it and kick it correctly and learning new terminology.

"That's what I'm focusing on and just trying to do it to the best of my ability."

While he's a long way from his own family, Kilkenny has found a substitute clan of sorts.

Atmosphere

He's living with Hawthorn recruiting and list manager Graham Wright and his family, following the path of Martin Clarke who also lived with the Pies head of recruitment on his arrival in Melbourne.

"That's one of the things that really helped make my decision.

"My dad got to meet the family while he was here. It's great to be in that family atmosphere," concluded Kilkenny.

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