Players ensure the ‘Ireland test’ continues to endure as new AFL season begins


With its origins in a newspaper advertisement in 1982, the ‘Irish Trial’ in the AFL is timeless.

From a record high of 17 in 2020, there are now 11 former GAA players making a living in the AFL with the new season underway in a few hours. of tomorrow morning.

Earning a professional contract Down Under to pursue a career in a sport they had no exposure to is an often overlooked achievement here. Westmeath’s Fionn O’Hara becomes latest Irish player to sign for an AFL club on a 40-year project that has seen its ups and downs – and around 65 players taking their chances in careers Down Under. Let’s take a look at the class of 2022.

Darragh Joyce (St Kilda)

Even when exporting to Ireland, Joyce took the path less traveled to the AFL. He joined St Kilda after, unusually, made waves as an underage hurdler when he captained Kilkenny for the all-Ireland minor hurdles title in 2014, where they beat a Limerick team there were people like Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey, Séamus Flanagan, Barry Nash, Seán Finn and Peter Casey in the deciding section. However, it was his efforts with Good Counsel that helped him catch the eye of Australian scouts. Injuries have not been a good thing for him and last year he suffered three concussions over a 12-month period. However, he has played the full five times in 2021 – and in the process, he has doubled his career appearances in the AFL. That was enough to get him a one-year extension with the Melbourne club.

Number of appearances in career: 10

Goal: 0

Zach Tuohy (Geelong)

Tuohy is, in a sense, the senior Irishman now signed to the AFL and he is also one of the most successful players in the history of the ‘Ireland test.’ Only the great Jim Stynes ​​has played more games (264) than the Portlaoise player while he also played in a final – alongside Kerry’s Mark O’Connor – for several seasons prior to.

And while his place as a great player among the Irish in the AFL is assured, Tuohy is also a success on the Australian scene. An AFLPA study in 2014 found that the average AFL career lasted six seasons but Tuohy far exceeded that, when he first joined the AFL as a rookie in 2010. He was able to exhibit some considerable durability during that time. In seven seasons to 2019, he has never missed a game due to injury in an extremely consumable sport. Now 32, Tuohy played 21 times last season when Geelong bowed to eventual champions Melbourne in round 4. A remarkable career that has at least one other chapter to run.

Number of appearances in career: 226

Goal: 78

Mark O’Connor (Geelong)

Many in Kerry wondered what the past few years would have looked like for the county if the Dingle man had been present in the county. However, he has forged a solid career of his own Down Under and is already the eighth-highest stroker in the history of the ‘Ireland test’. O’Connor has also established himself as one of Geelong’s senior figures, joining the club’s leadership team a few seasons ago. A hamstring injury limited his campaign last year but will be a key figure once again.

Number of appearances in career: 65

Goal: 4

Conor Nash (Hawthorn)

Nash finds himself in the unusual position of being courted by three different ciphers before he makes the choice to go “Under”. He is one of Meath football’s most highly regarded prospects and has managed to help his Simonstown club win back-to-back county titles just as he began his Australian adventure. me. He was also wanted by Leinster rugby academy before he chose AFL and Hawthorn. Nash picked up a serious shoulder injury that hampered his progress a few seasons ago but made eight appearances last year as part of a well-rounded finish to the season.

Number of appearances in career: 29

Goal: 13

Fionn O’Hara (Hawthorn)

The newest Ireland player to the AFL. Like new club mate Nash, O’Hara looks set to have a promising rugby career ahead of him as he plays for Ireland Under-18s and Leinster U-20s while he also wins trophies. Westmeath SFC with St Loman’s.

Number of appearances in career: 0

Cian McBride (Essendon)

McBride is among the many Irish players whose chances of success Down Under have been severely hampered by the pandemic that has brought the number of games for rookies to almost zero as development leagues have been virtually wiped out for several years. via. However, Essendon has seen enough in the Meath and St Ultan youngster to offer him a deal that will take him up at least towards the end of the current campaign. Was sharing a house with Mark Keane of Cork, who chose to return home.

Number of appearances in career: 0

Colin O’Riordan (Sydney Swan)

As the dust settles after Tipperary’s historic Munster SFC 2020 final win, Colin O’Riordan admits the upcoming AFL season is a huge one for him in terms of his Down Under future. Despite some nagging injuries, he has played six times in the last year, including in the knockout final when the Swans lost to cross-city rivals the Giants. O’Riordan also won the Sydney club’s player of the year award last season.

Number of appearances in career: 29

Goal: 1

Barry O’Connor (Sydney Swan)

Like Wexford man McBride, O’Connor saw his apprenticeship opportunities devastated by Covid but he signed on for a third season with Swans.

Number of appearances in career: 0

Callum Brown (GWS Giant)

Brown made his dream debut last year, scoring two goals as the Giants beat Geelong. Former player Derry, who is also with Linfield FC, is a formidable athlete and he can look forward to a big 2022.

Number of appearances in career: 2

Goal: 2

James Madden (Brisbane Lions)

After a grueling 20-meter slide in his combo, Madden had to wait almost three years before making his debut but the Ballyboden St Enda man took his chance with both hands in last year, appeared nine times.

Number of appearances in career: 9

Goal: 1

Deividas Uosis (Brisbane Lion)

Like Joyce, Uosis is not an unlikely AFL signing having played his representative football with Kerry in goal but the Lithuanian-born Irish speaker put up some impressive numbers as he She attended the AFL consortium in Dublin in 2019.

Number of appearances in career: 0 Players ensure the ‘Ireland test’ continues to endure as new AFL season begins

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