The ‘Irish Experiment’, as it has been called, has a strong connection to the Australian Rules Football League (AFL) with many players from these shores trying their hand at full-time professionalism the other side of the world. SportsNewsIRELAND looks at 10 players who have, or can, make an impact down under.
Five Irish Players to Watch in 2017:
Darragh Joyce (Kilkenny-St. Kilda’s)
Joyce has bucked the stereotypical impression of a Kilkenny footballer by receiving a two-year contract in the AFL. He did make his name as a hurler and captained his county to the 2014 All-Ireland minor title and has looked comfortable with the oval ball.
Ray Connellan (Westmeath-St. Kilda’s)
The Athlone man was in a worrying position last July when he suffered a broken leg playing in Westmeath’s Leinster Senior Football Final against Dublin. Thankfully, the prognosis was only 14 weeks and he signed his contract for a new career down under.
Zack Tuohy (Laois-Geelong)
Originally with Carlton, he successfully lobbied for a draft to Geelong in the close season. Tuohy won a Leinster minor title with Laois in 2007 and scored a goal for Ireland against Australia in the 2013 International Rules series. Already has over 40 goals in his AFL career.
Ciaran Sheehan (Cork-Carlton)
Injuries have delayed his impact, especially a cruciate injury suffered in the 2011 Munster Senior Football Final against Kerry. But the Cork man, who has Munster minor medals in both hurling and football, has overcome them to get his career moving in Australia.
Ciaran Byrne (Louth-Carlton)
‘Casey’ as he is affectionately known has already played seven AFL games including six in a row in 2016. A Louth senior debutant in 2013, the connection through Australian cousins guaranteed he would take a chance there if the opportunity arose.
And Here are Five Players Who Did Deliver:
Jim Stynes (Dublin-Melbourne)
The greatest Irish recruit in AFL history, Stynes won the Brownlow Medal (the game’s highest honour) and was inducted in the Hall of Fame. Broke the record for consecutive games (244) and scored 130 goals between 1987 and 1998. He was also given a State funeral in Victoria.
Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry-Sydney)
Joined Sydney Swans in 2001 and scored 30 goals over seven years. Created history by becoming the first player to win an AFL Premiership medallion and an All-Ireland senior football medal after taking a year break to score two points in Kerry’s 2009 win.
Setanta O hAilpin (Cork-Carlton)
O hAilpin was a success scoring 82 goals in an eight-year career for Carlton and Greater Western Sydney. After winning a Fitzgibbon Cup with Waterford IT in 2003, he played a part in Cork’s run to the All-Ireland Hurling Final winning a Munster medal, an All-Star and Young Player of the Year.
Martin Clarke (Down-Collingwood)
Finished his AFL career in 2014, Gaelic Football’s ‘Lost Genius’ scored 19 goals for Collingwood between 2007 and 2009 before returning to Ireland. He helped Down reach the 2010 All-Ireland Final and won an All-Star, five years after winning an All-Ireland minor medal.
Colm Begley (Laois-Brisbane)
After appearing for Ireland under 19s against Australia, Begley went to Brisbane Lions. He scored seven goals in a four-year career and was their Rookie of the Year in 2007. Returned to Ireland and the Laois senior team in 2010. `