Flying the flag

The Irish stars and clubs to watch as the 2021 AFLW finals kick off tomorrow

With nine players involved across the six teams remaining, we’re guaranteed another Irish Premiership winner.

aflw AFLW. AFLW.

SIX TEAMS LEFT standing, nine Irish players.

Of the 14 from these shores on the books of Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] clubs this season, five will play no further part: Aisling McCarthy, and Niamh and Grace Kelly of West Coast Eagles, and Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack of Greater Western Sydney Giants.

There’s plenty to keep an eye on thought, through the coming weeks’ knockout games, with at least one Irish player involved in each of the six teams remaining. This means, of course, that we’ll have an Irish Premiership champion in 2021.

Seven of the country’s top stars are involved in Saturday’s two qualifying finals, with the losers eliminated there and then.

Collingwood and North Melbourne go head-to-head, with a battle of Mayo team-mates in store between Sarah Rowe and Aileen Gilroy. Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan plays alongside Rowe at the Pies, the pair really ripping it up this season.

Melbourne and Fremantle face off in the other showdown, the Dublin trio of Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee at the Demons, while Leitrim forward Áine Tighe is with Freo. That said, injury rules Goldrick out, while Tighe is unlikely to feature as she continues her own comeback from another nasty knee setback.

Waiting in the wings next weekend are Brisbane Lions, home to Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer, and Adelaide Crows, who have Clare’s Ailish Considine in their ranks — the only Irishwoman to have won an AFLW Premiership. Brisbane face the winners of Collingwood and North Melbourne, while Adelaide are gearing up for the victors of Melbourne and Freo.

TG4 will show deferred coverage of both of this weekend’s games, but they’re available to watch live on the AFLW app. So if you’re tuning in, here’s a guide to those you should keep an eye on.


Aishling Sheridan

Screenshot 2021-02-28 at 11.06.29 Sheridan with her Collingwood team-mates. Collingwood AFLW. Collingwood AFLW.

The Breffni star has really progressed in her second season at Collingwood, hitting the headlines week on week and scoring eight goals, a stark contrast to two in 2020. A commentator, in fact, recently said she was in the top-15 players in the league — a huge compliment.

A real physical presence in the Collingwood forward line, Sheridan has been nothing but brilliant in her side’s rise this season, the CrossCoders graduate bringing much of her best attributes from ladies football into the Australian game.

Sarah Rowe

2021 has been a stop-start season for Rowe — this her third — her progress hampered by an ongoing shoulder injury she has had to manage. But when she features, she’s a key player for the Pies.

The Mayo ace has been instrumental through her time at the club, just as talented with the oval ball as she is on the inter-county scene and has been as an Irish soccer international.

North Melbourne 

Aileen Gilroy

aflw-cats-kangaroos Gilroy (centre) in action last season. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

“We’re still in it,” Gilroy stressed in a rallying cry after a mixed bag of a season for North Melbourne. “It’s up to us on Saturday to try and get the win. We’re just going to put our best foot forward and see what Saturday brings.”

The teak-tough defender has built on her impressive debut season accordingly, a constant in the North back line despite their struggles. Another former underage soccer international, Gilroy is a fan favourite at the Kangaroos, her physicality, athleticism and run-and-carry pivotal. 


Sinéad Goldrick

The curtain came down on the Dublin star’s AFLW season in recent weeks when she tore her hamstring and went under the knife, leaving her inter-county involvement in 2021 hanging in the balance now too.

Her absence will certainly be felt by Melbourne, the eight-time All-Star really coming to the fore in her second season at the Demons. She’s sure to be an interested spectator.

Niamh McEvoy

McEvoy and Goldrick missed Melbourne’s involvement in the 2020 finals series due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both returning with “unfinished business”. While Goldrick won’t get the chance to complete the job in ’21, it’s unclear whether McEvoy will either.

The St Sylvester’s forward has been in and out of the squad this season, dropping to the second-tier VFLW team for the most part, though starring for them.

Lauren Magee

melbourne Magee is in her debut season at Melbourne. Melbourne FC / Dublin LGFA. Melbourne FC / Dublin LGFA. / Dublin LGFA.

Magee was the only Irish player to feature in Melbourne’s success over Brisbane last week, so will be gunning for another run-out in this all-important elimination clash.

The four-in-a-row All-Ireland winner’s first appearance was a difficult one, but she’s shown real progress and settled well over the past few weeks, booting the backing many gave her to thrive in her new sport despite the steep learning curve.


Áine Tighe

Probably Leitrim’s best-ever ladies footballer, Tighe has endured torrid luck with knee injuries over the past few years.

She looked to have put two gut-wrenching cruciate injuries behind her, but was struck down with another knee setback in pre-season so is yet to make her AFLW debut for the 2020 champions-elect.


Orla O’Dwyer

O’Dwyer was named AFL Ireland Women’s Player of the Year earlier this week, having been one of Brisbane’s best week after week this season.

A well-known dual star on these shores, O’Dwyer really outlined her intentions and lofty AFLW ambitions last November, leaving for Australia before her inter-county commitments concluded. That decision seems to have really paid off. As CrossCoders co-founder Jason Hill recently said, O’Dwyer has enjoyed a “rise to prominence in the league”.


Ailish Considine

aflw-crows-cats Considine won the Premiership with Adelaide in 2019. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

Another who has had a frustrating, stop-start season since sustaining a concussion in Round 2, Considine will be available again for Adelaide’s preliminary final next weekend.

Minor Premiership champions, the Crows are also reigning Premiers from 2019 as no winners were crowned last season due to the pandemic. In that, her debut season, Considine made history by becoming the first Irishwoman to win, chipping in with a goal in the Grand Final.


Adelaide and Brisbane were the two top teams after the nine-round regular season, and they’re the bookmakers favourites for the flag, with Collingwood next in line.

Then, Freo – many people’s favourites before a ball was kicked after their unstoppable 2020 – and Melbourne are on equal odds, with North Melbourne very much the outsiders.

2021 AFLW Finals

Saturday 3 April – Elimination Finals

  • Melbourne v Fremantle (3.05am Irish time) — TG4 5.30pm
  • Collingwood v North Melbourne (5.10am Irish time) — TG5 1.50pm, Sunday

Weekend 10/11 April – Preliminary Finals

  • Adelaide v Melbourne/Fremantle 
  • Brisbane v Collingwood /North Melbourne

Weekend 17/18 April – AFLW Grand Final

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