AFLW review and preview - injury blow for Collingwood's 'firing Irish duo' and 'write Cora off at your peril'

TG4 is showing two full games this weekend, along with Monday evening’s highlights show.

ANOTHER WEEKEND WITHOUT Gaelic games action on these shores, but there’s plenty to keep an eye on Down Under once again.

afkw Sarah Rowe, Aishling Sheridan and Cora Staunton are three to come in for huge praise from our AFLW expert this week. Source: PA Images.

There’s six Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] games in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday of interest to Irish fans, with 14 of the country’s top ladies football stars involved in the 2021 season.

Round Five brings the AFLW’s inaugural Indigeneous Round, and for the first time, there will be TWO full games available to watch on TG4, as well as the regular highlights programme on Monday night.

The Sunday afternoon GAA void will be filled by deferred coverage of the meeting of Collingwood and Melbourne [2pm] — in which five Irish stars could potentially feature — while all eyes will be on Cora Staunton and her Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants side as their clash against Western Bulldogs is shown in the regular Saturday AFLW slot [5.10pm].

Mayo legend Staunton, 39, comes in off the back of her remarkable four-goal haul last weekend, though Round Five will prove a tougher challenge for Staunton and Bríd Stack’s side, as CrossCoders head agent and expert on the ground, Jason Hill, predicts.

He’s backing Collingwood’s ‘firing Irish duo,’ Aishling Sheridan and Sarah Rowe, to continue inspiring their side. A shoulder injury, however, rules Rowe out as they look to maintain their 100% record against Melbourne

Dublin trio Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee — who made her debut last weekend, while Goldrick missed out through injury — could all feature for the opposing side.

Meanwhile, Tipperary triple threat Orla O’Dwyer and her Brisbane Lions face Fremantle; the only other team unbeaten in the competition and last season’s champions-elect. Leitrim and Freo’s Áine Tighe, like Stack, will again be watching on as she continues her recovery from injury.

Aileen Gilroy’s North Melbourne face Carlton on Saturday, while Ailish Considine’s Adelaide Crows go head-t0-head with St Kilda on Sunday — though the Clare native will again be absent from the matchday squad after a recent concussion.

And elsewhere on Sunday, Aisling McCarthy and Niamh and Grace Kelly’s West Coast Eagles lock horns with Gold Coast Suns. Niamh could return after a dislocated finger setback, though question marks remain over McCarthy’s unlikely involvement after a knee injury last weekend.

Hill runs the rule over some of the Irish below, reviewing Round Four and looking forward to this weekend, offering deeper analysis of their seasons so far and outlining what we should expect as we tune in:

Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)

Last weekend’s was a tough match for the Mayo star as the North backline was under siege from a rampant Pies team (more on that later). With the pies getting so many uncontested possessions, they were able to move the defence around which kept Gilroy down to a career-low six disposals as she couldn’t get her hands on the ball for those rebounds off the backline.

She’ll be hoping to bounce back this week when the Roos take on Carlton in their second home of Tasmania.

Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)

Another game, another goal last time out for the second-year rising star. A continued awkward match up for defences has allowed Sheridan to show her mix of speed and strength this year and has coaches and list managers around the league waxing lyrical about her improvement in such a short space of time.

That’s five goals and five behinds in four games for Aishling now as she starts to mix it with some of the best forwards in the league.

Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo) 

Getting back to her best after an interrupted pre-season with her shoulder injury. Run and carry is what you expect from Sarah and that’s what we’re starting to see. 14 touches against a strong North side really showed she’s back to hunting the football and hurting the opposition. The Pies are going to be a tough team to beat with their firing Irish duo.

* written before the news of her injury setback

Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)

aflw-dockers-lions Orla O'Dwyer. Source: AAP/PA Images

Speaking to the Brisbane head coach mid-week, he was extremely impressed with the strides Orla has taken between season one and two. Not only is she showing what we all expected from her but she’s now starting to mix it with the best and effect tight games. Against an Adelaide side looking to prove a point after last weeks drubbing by Fremantle, O’Dwyer really stepped up to keep Brisbane in the game, winning contested possession after contested possession to drive her team forward.

Finishing with 14 possessions and five tackles, she did all she could but couldn’t quite get the Lions across the line as they lost by two goals last week. They’ll be hoping to bounce back against Freo, though it could be a tough ask.

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Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne / Dublin)

An arm wrestle last weekend between the Dees and the Dogs, which landed the way of the Dogs. McEvoy, like all her teammates, racked up the touches with 11 in her second game of the season but lacked the clinical precision inside 50 to make it count of the scoreboard. A behind for the day for Niamh was a similar story to the rest of the team as they kicked 12 minor scores and only two majors.

Niamh will be looking to add the finishing touches to her pressure game now to show Australia what the rest of the LGFA know.

Lauren Magee (Melbourne / Dublin)

A baptism of fire for the Dubliner in her first game of AFLW. Credited with only one disposal by hand and no tackles for the game, she really did learn the hard way what the intensity is like at the top with the Dogs flocking on her each time she did get near the ball to lock it in or win the free kick. Things won’t get any easier for the first year player this weekend when they take on the Pies. 

Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)

Write Cora off at your peril. I think that’s almost all you need to say about this one. Finishing with four goals two behinds for the day and 16 possessions, she single handedly dominated the Eagles defence and made sure that the Giants always stayed in front. Tough match up away at the Dogs next week – can she go back-to-back? I’m certainly not writing off ‘Scora’

Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)

A tougher match for McCarthy last weekend as she was given a lot of attention by the Giants midfield which limited her possessions in the first half. Started to come alive as the game opened up in the second to finish with 12 touches and six tackles but succumbed to a nasty looking knee injury towards the middle of the final quarter. Fingers crossed it’s not too bad and she’ll be back on the park this week when they have a favourable matchup against the Suns.

Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles)

Another week of extreme effort from the older of the Kelly sisters just missing that end product through no fault of her own. On numerous occasions the kick towards the Mayo star forward was just out of her reach, meaning she couldn’t take a clean possession to move the game on in West Coasts favour.

Once those kicks start hitting Grace expect her to have a breakout game with her class on the ball.

aflw-giants-eagles Grace Kelly. Source: AAP/PA Images

Others not mentioned above as they missed Round Four

It’s unclear whether Sinéad Goldrick will return this weekend after missing Round Four through injury. Uncertainty reigns over Aisling McCarthy too. And Ailish Considine didn’t play last time out, nor will she feature this weekend though she is back in action.

On the contrary, long-term absentees Áine Tighe and Bríd Stack are out of action for the forseable, though Niamh Kelly could make her return.

Round Five fixtures / results

* all in Irish time

Friday, 26 February

  • Geelong 2.1 (13) Richmond 9.6 (60) — this was Richmond’s first AFLW win

Saturday, 27 February

  • Western Bulldogs v Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants, 4.10am — TG4 at 5.10pm
  • Fremantle v Brisbane Lions, 6.10am
  • North Melbourne v Carlton, 8.10am

Sunday, 28 February

  • Adelaide Crows v St Kilda, 2.10am
  • Collingwood v Melbourne, 4.10am — TG4 at 2pm
  • West Coast Eagles v Gold Coast Suns, 6.10am

- All games also available to watch live on the AFLW app.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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