SOCCEROO Neil Kilkenny says he thoroughly enjoyed his experiences at the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar and admits he surprised even himself with the impact he made for Australia.
Leeds United midfielder Kilkenny, 25, earned his first national team call-up in almost two-and-a-half years when the Asian Cup squad was selected, before impressing in three appearances off the bench in the Qatar tournament.
"Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. I flew out there not really expecting to play. I knew the situation and just wanted to show what I could do to the manager," Kilkenny told the Yorkshire Post.
"Luckily, I was given that chance when I came off the bench against the United Arab Emirates in a warm-up friendly and the manager was pleased.
"I had to sit out the first two group games but it was great to come off the bench against Bahrain and help the team win."
He added: "The final was watched by a crowd of 50,000 and we should really have won. We had a lot of chances but just couldn't score and then Japan got the winner in extra-time.
"I came off the bench again and it was disappointing not to win the game, though at least I can always say I have played in an Asia Cup final.
"After the final, the manager said he was pleased with me. He then said, 'Concentrate on playing well and regularly for your club'."
Kilkenny has been a regular at Leeds this campaign, making 20 starts and five appearances off the bench in all competitions as the Whites have pushed for promotion back to the Premier League.
Prior to Saturday's 1-0 win over Coventry City where Kilkenny was a 79th-minute substitute on his return after the Asian Cup, he said: "I left for the Asia Cup when we were second in the table and I wanted the lads to carry on doing well.
"They have not picked up as many points in the last couple of weeks but, hopefully, now I am back we can go on a run."
Kilkenny added about the Asian Cup: "The Asia Cup was a good experience and something I really enjoyed. The standard was good.
"People in England may not know too much about the teams, with the possible exception of South Korea and Japan, because they are from Asia.
"But they are technically very good. Defensively, some of the teams may not be the best but they can keep the ball well and attack very well."
The Brisbane-raised man also weighed in on the debate about when time of the year that Qatar should host the 2022 World Cup after his experiences in the Middle East nation at the Asian Cup.
"In the Asia Cup, the games were played at 4pm and 7pm to try and make sure the heat was not too much of a problem," Kilkenny said.
"But it was still hot. The temperature was about 25 degrees and quite humid so it wasn't unbearable for those of us playing or anything like that.
"But it was still hot. The big problem for football would come in the summer. I have been out there at that time of year and it really is very, very, very hot.
"As a player, playing at this time of year makes a lot more sense as we don't want to play in the heat and humidity of a summer. It is what I would definitely prefer due to it getting so hot in Qatar.
"The problem, though, is that playing a World Cup in winter would cause all sorts of problems for the leagues.
"For the Asia Cup, the leagues just carried on but that couldn't happen for a World Cup because all the star players in the Premier League or wherever would be missing for weeks.
"That is why I just can't see them changing the timing, which is a shame for the players."