Carlow star and former AFL recruit Brendan Murphy believes Ciarán Kilkenny did the right thing in deciding not to return to Australia and an AFL career with Hawthorn.
Murphy spent two years on the books of the Sydney Swans before refusing the offer of a contract extension and returned to Ireland in 2009.
Although he did not break in to the Swans first team he impressed in the reserves, despite a series of injuries, and the former Swans coach Paul Roos expressed his disappointment at Murphy’s decision to return to Ireland.
The Rathvilly man, speaking to RTÉ Sport, said that he fully understood and empathised with Kilkenny’s decision not to return to Australia.
“I was surprised at first when I read Ciarán’s statement. I had heard he was going very well out there, but at the end of the day if he was not happy, and his heart was dragging him back to Ireland, than I think he made the right decision”, said Murphy.
“Ciarán said in his statement, and I suppose I can relate to it, that it’s great to be a professional and getting to play sport but, for me, pulling on the Sydney Swans jumper was just not the same as pulling on a Rathvilly or Carlow jersey.
"There is a lot to be said for lining out beside your brothers and the friends you’ve grown up with. For me it was just not the same in Australia and Ciarán obviously felt the same.”
Questioned as to whether the respective contrasting states of the Australian and Irish economies would influence the decision to return to Ireland, Murphy was dismissive in his assessment of the financial factors involved.
“If your heart is telling you that it’s not meant for you than it’s just not meant for you. When I first came home people were saying to me that, with the way things are, would I not be better off staying in Australia.
"But it you’re not happy in a place there is no point staying there just for the sake of money. It’s not right. If you want to come home, and you feel that’s the best place for you, than go for it.”
“If your heart is telling you that it’s not meant for you than it’s just not meant for you" - Brendan Murphy
Homesickness is often alluded to as one of the big issues facing young Irish recruits in the AFL, and Murphy admitted that it was a factor for him, despite the support of everyone at the Sydney club.
“For me, at the Swans, they were brilliant. All the staff and players at the club made me feel really welcome. At the start the homesickness was a big thing.
"I remember flying back to Australia after my first Christmas and it was tough for the first two or three months.
"You are constantly thinking of home, and you would have a pain in your gut missing home. Everyone at the club makes you feel welcome but, at the end of the day, it’s not home.”
“It’s not like playing for your club, and Ciarán obviously has a strong feeling about playing for his club (Castleknock) and loves it, and loves playing for Dublin and that must have been a big factor for him as well.”
Murphy has no doubt that Kilkenny would have made it in the AFL, and dismissed notions that Kilkenny’s contrasting profile in Ireland and Australia was an issue.
“I have no doubt that Ciarán would have made the grade in AFL because he is that sort of a talent. He is one of the best young lads coming up through GAA.
"Some people might say that (he was a small fish in a big pond in Australia) but you would not worry about people like that. Ciarán has a massive opportunity now with his club in an All-Ireland semi-final and, of course, with Dublin.”
“Dublin are one of the best teams in the country so coming home, for him, gives him the chance to fulfil every dream he ever had as a child.”
Murphy was emphatic when asked if he was happy, in hindsight, with his decision to return home. “I’m delighted," he insisted.