Neil Kilkenny has had one of the most difficult year’s any person could endure, let alone one of the most difficult seasons a footballer or athlete has ever had to face.
With his family still based in Perth and spending time in the United Kingdom while Kilkenny made the move to Western United in the off-season.
Added to that the passing of his father-in-law in March, the 36-year-old has been through it all this year.
“I’ve been away from my family obviously six months. I’ve seen them for three weeks in that six months so it’s been a hard slog and a lot of sacrifice, but we’re glad to be here now and to win it,” he said.
That’s why it meant so much to Kilkenny to have his family in the stands as he put in another superb midfield performance to help Western United defeat Melbourne City in Saturday night’s A-League Men Grand Final.
“Of course, to share it with you family is one of those things. We’re buzzing, we’re all so happy,” he said.
Kilkenny sighted the impact of head coach John Aloisi and the support of the entire network at the Club that has helped him get through the challenges.
“For me, he’s (Aloisi) been a real father figure. He’s seen quite a lot of tears throughout the season, with border closures and my father-in-law dying as well,” he said.
“He’s been a massive help, the Club have been a massive help, and I’m so grateful and I’m so happy that I’ve come and helped the team win the Grand Final.”
The Championship completes the full set in Australian domestic football for Kilkenny, who won the FFA Cup with Melbourne City in 2016 and Premier’s Plate with Perth Glory three years later.
Among those experiences, playing in the Premier League and tasting promotion success twice with Leeds United and Preston North End, Kilkenny said this season has been one of his favourites.
“The Club wants to improve, they’re a Club that wants to invest. I’m so happy for the owners, for the management team and for the players,” he said.
“It’s one of the best Clubs I’ve been at. As a Club, they’ve made it a real family vibe, and we’re really looking forward to hopefully another couple of seasons.”
At 36 years of age, Kilkenny has had yet another standout season in Australian football, with a string of particularly outstanding performances when it mattered most throughout the Finals Series.
He will now have the opportunity to take a well-deserved break and spend time with his family before deciding on his future for 2022/23 and beyond.