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'A shining light' and 'a live wire' - the nine Irish stars that featured Down Under this weekend

Tipperary team-mates went head-to-head, while there was a different kind of Dublin-Mayo showdown. Here’s the view of an AFLW expert ahead of TG4′s highlights show.

IT’S THAT TIME on a Monday again as we look back on the weekend that’s been in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW].

aflw (2) Aishling Sheridan, Aisling McCarthy and Sinéad Goldrick were the pick of the Irish in Round Three. Source: PA Images/West Coast Eagles / Melbourne FC.

Nine Irish stars featured in Round Three, which had a Dublin-Mayo showdown with a twist as Melbourne FC beat North Melbourne in a thrilling derby encounter, while two Tipperary team-mates in Aisling McCarthy and Orla O’Dwyer went head-to-head in a Monday game — an unusual, but welcome, fixture change.

Sinéad Goldrick starred for Melbourne once again as her team-mate Niamh McEvoy made her first appearance of 2021 in the victory over Aileen Gilroy’s North Melbourne.

McCarthy put on another best on the ground performance for West Coast Eagles alongside Mayo’s Grace Kelly, but they fell short against O’Dwyer — “a live wire who is unpredictable,” as she was lauded on commentary — and her Brisbane Lions.

Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan’s impressive goal-kicking form continued for Collingwood, with herself and Sarah Rowe helping the Pies to their third win on the bounce against Richmond.

While their perfect start continued, Cora Staunton helped GWS Giants to their first win of the campaign on a week where her Cork team-mate Bríd Stack took off her neck brace on her road to recovery.

West Coast’s Niamh Kelly (finger) and Adelaide’s Ailish Considine (concussion) were both ruled out through injury also, while Leitrim forward Áine Tighe continues to watch Fremantle from the sideline after her knee setback.

That covers the 14 Irishwomen in the league for 2021, but of the nine representing four counties across eight clubs in Round Three, CrossCoders co-founder and head agent Jason Hill reviews their performances below.

Our expert on the ground in Australia, Hill runs the rule over how the Irish contingent and their sides fared over the weekend, offering some deeper insight and analysis and detailing what to expect next. 

It’s the perfect way to whet the appetitive for TG4′s weekly AFLW highlights programme, which kicks off at 8pm.

Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)

A hard game for the former Mayo star in the wet of Sydney. It was a tough slog for Cora and her team to win their first game of the season against Gold Coast Suns. Very surprisingly we didn’t see the usual forward pressure from Staunton as the Giants tried to turn forward 50 entries into points. A poor set shot in the first half just showed a lack of confidence. Maybe the chaotic start to the season for GWS and the injury has started to take its toll on Cora or maybe we’re just being too harsh on the legend we expect so much of after only 23 games of AFLW? Whatever it is I’d still not write off the champion.

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Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne FC / Dublin)

Another great game for the Dublin star as they grab a huge upset win against North Melbourne. Regularly cited on commentary for her impressive attack off half-back which was on show in this game in abundance the game is really starting to gel for Sinéad. You can really now see how much more comfortable she is within the game and how her Gaelic traits are coming through. Expecting a lot from Goldrick now with this young and exciting Melbourne team.

Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne FC / Dublin)

It was a quiet comeback game for Niamh as the game passed her by a little bit. Credited with 6 disposals, 2 marks and 2 tackles, she contributed where she could without really affecting the game. The hit out will do her the world of good in reminding the experienced Dubliner of the intensity of the AFLW and she’ll be looking to grab the next game by the scruff of the neck like she can on the Gaelic pitch.

Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)

Another game where Gilroy landed in the top five North players when it comes to the points awarded by the fantasy gurus. Whenever she did get her hands on the ball she launched North into great attacking positions with her booming kick. The disappointing thing for Gilroy and her defensive teammates would be the 6 goals 1 behind that they conceded in the second quarter through some indisciplined tackling displays which kept giving free kicks away inside the 50 arc. Gilroy, her defensive team-mates and North will be expecting a much improved defensive effort in Round Four.

Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)

We asked for her to return more goals and she delivered, kicking 2.1 for the day and it could have been more if not for the unselfish act of handballing off to her teammate to kick her first ever goal in the competition when running through on goal. ‘Shero’ has now kicked 4 goals 4 behinds for the season, eclipsing her 2 goals in 2020 and looks set to be the real scoring threat in the Pies forward line in 2021. 4 goals has her in the chasing pack behind Golden Boot leader Gemma Houghton with 6 after 3 games. All in all, a relatively easy win against a poor Tigers outfit.

Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)

A quieter game for Rowe, who spent a lot of time through the middle of the ground against a Tigers side who were trying to make it as congested as possible. But another game back for the Mayo star who will be happy to have come through without further injury after she was tackled hard onto that strapped shoulder on a couple of occasions. Next week’s mouthwatering blockbuster against North is at Marvel stadium means Rowe will have a paddock of space on the wide wings she’ll look to exploit. Solid enough on Sunday finishing with 11 disposals and 1 tackle.

Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)

Another best on ground performance for the West Coast Eagles for the Irish recruit. Again she opened the scoring and dominated the possession charts for a side that was very much in the contest, being down only 1 point at half time. Breaking a tag from the Lions, she managed to rack up possessions but was always under pressure to make a quick disposal by hand or foot. It’s going to be a difficult year for the Eagles and McCarthy but she’s showing why they recruited her so hard this offseason being a shining light in their opening 3 games so far this season.

Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)

A game of huge industry for Grace Kelly as she constantly hunted the ball from half-forward. As the game swung more in the favour of the Brisbane Lions, her tackle pressure grew with it. Clearly one of the fittest players on the Eagles list she was always around the contest in the second half. A couple of shots at goal could have spun her way on another day but she finished with 11 possessions to back up her 12 last week.

Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)

A constant threat around the ball and grew as the game went on and Brisbane wrestled back control. Spoken about on commentary as “a live wire who is unpredictable,” she was exactly this. While only gaining a respectable 10 possessions, she had 3 strikes at goal which on another day would have been three majors rather than 3 behinds. Carlton coach Daniel Harford spoke highly of the improvement we’re seeing from the Tipp native this year and I would say he isn’t the only one that’s been impressed. Big match up for Orla next week against the Crows to see how good this Brisbane side really is.

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Emma Duffy

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