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Answering critics, stunning goals and a breakout game - the Irish stars that featured in Australia this weekend

An AFLW expert assesses the performances of the eight Irish players that lined out in Round Five.

EIGHT IRISH STARS featured in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] this weekend, with some massive performances produced in Round Five.

aflw (3) Aishling Sheridan, Grace Kelly and Orla O'Dwyer all had outstanding weekends. Source: Collingwood/West Coast Eagles / Press Association Images.

Cavan star Aishling Sheridan continued her scintillating form, kicking her sixth goal in five games and inspiring Collingwood to establish themselves as the only club with a 100% record this season.

Mayo’s Kelly sisters, Niamh and Grace, played pivotal roles for West Coast Eagles as they recorded their first win of 2021. Niamh returned from a nasty finger injury and made her impact felt straight away, while Grace produced her best performance to date in Australia and rounded it off with a stunning goal.

Likewise, Tipperary triple-threat Orla O’Dwyer was on target and played a key part in Brisbane Lions’ shock win over Fremantle, while Mayo’s Aileen Gilroy was back to her brilliant best for North Melbourne. 

Mayo great Cora Staunton and Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy were also in action, though Staunton’s Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants and Goldrick and McEvoy’s Melbourne FC fell to Western Bulldogs and Sheridan’s Collingwood respectively.

With 14 Irishwomen are on the books of clubs Down Under, six others were watching on having been ruled out through injury or otherwise.

Bríd Stack (Giants) and Áine Tighe (Fremantle) are both long-term absentees but hoping to see some action in the season’s latter stages. Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows) is back in action after a concussion setback and should feature for her 2019 Premiership winning side next week, while question marks remain over Aisling McCarthy (West Coast) who was a late withdrawal at the weekend after sustaining a knee injury in Round Four.

Sarah Rowe (Collingwood) was also ruled out of the weekend’s action with a shoulder injury — “set to be sidelined for 2-3 weeks,” as the Pies said on Friday — while Lauren Magee was absent from the Melbourne matchday side after her Round Four debut.

With Collingwood currently four clear atop the ladder, and Brisbane Lions the second-place frontrunners on percentage ahead of Fremantle, Adelaide and Western Bulldogs, the league is well and truly heating up as attention switches to next weekend.

But first, as always, CrossCoders co-founder and head agent Jason Hill — an expert on the ground Down Under — assesses the Irish performances from Round Five, offering deeper analysis and insight on those involved ahead of tonight’s highlights programme on TG4 at 8pm:

Cora Staunton

A more difficult week again for the Irish legend as she looked to repeat her goal-scoring feats as the Giants took on the Dogs. Held to only 1 scoring shot the Bulldogs defence did enough to keep ‘Scora’ quiet as they continued their impressive start to the season. With the inside 50 count being only 19 for the Giants there wasn’t much for Staunton to work with and she wasn’t rewarded with any tackles in the game. The Giants return home next week but come up against the ever-impressive Lions meaning things won’t get any easier for the Mayo product.

Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)

Probably the upset of the season. Fremantle don’t lose, let alone at home, and for the Lions to go out west and knock them off is an impressive show of character off the back of the defeat to Adelaide last week.

The camogie superstar continued to show off her impressive ball-winning attributes in Round Five as she racked up 14 possessions and 1 goal 1 behind in an impressive outing in the midfield. Her goal really was the final nail in the coffin for Fremantle’s hopes and kept Brisbane in the driver’s seat. Ever the menace around the field with her tackle pressure I’d expect Orla to start to increase her credited tackle numbers in the coming weeks.

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Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)

Back to winning ways for Gilroy and her Kangaroos as they knocked off one of the pre-season favourites in Carlton down in Tasmania. Gilroy was back to her ball-winning best as she led the defence in possessions as she was credited with 13 kicks and 3 handballs.

aileen-gilroy Gilroy on the ball for Mayo. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The next evolution of Gilroy’s game comes from developing a shorter kick to targets to add in to the long booming drive she has to get the team out of trouble. Plenty of things to be happy with in her game but these minor improvements will take her to the top level of defenders in the competition with the attributes she has.

Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)

Another week. another goal. I feel like I’m on repeat. There were questions last year about if Sheridan would be able to evolve from a nearly player to a consistent performer at AFLW level. She’s answered those critics emphatically. The one, two punch with Chloe Molloy is causing defences across the league headaches that right now they don’t have the answer too. Next week they take on the Bulldogs where we’ll see if she can go one better than Mayo’s Staunton did this week.

Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne / Dublin)

Back in the side to replace her fellow Dubliner, Lauen Magee, against the league leaders in Collingwood and it couldn’t have been a tougher matchup. Unusually the eight-time LGFA All-Star only managed to nail one tackle during the game as she spent time chasing Sheridan & co. Goldrick’s stock is still very high in the league off the back of some top-level performances so far this year. The week out looks like it might have stifled her consistency a little but I’d expect her to bounce back as she takes on St Kilda next week.

Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne / Dublin)

A bit of a tough game for Niamh and her forward-line as they didn’t really get a chance to get into the game until the second half such was the performance by the Pies in the first. Only 5 touches for the Dubliner and no scores certainly isn’t the norm for someone of her class and we’ll be looking for a bounce-back from her next week.

Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)

Screenshot 2021-03-01 at 10.54.29 Niamh and Grace (15) Kelly celebrate. Source: West Coast Eagles.

A return to the team after a nasty finger injury and she was back to showing off her speed which has earned her the nickname ‘wheels’ within the Eagles side. 10 touches and a couple of tackles shows she hasn’t really taken a step back with her few weeks out of the side and she could have been credited with a goal if not for a great spoil from one of the Gold Coast defenders. A second game against Fremantle at the world-class Optus Stadium next week will be a tough matchup which will require the best from Niamh and the rest of the Eagles.

Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)

A breakout game for the older of the Kelly sisters. Grace has been saying privately that she wants to have more of an effect on games and that’s exactly what she did this week. Going into the game the Eagles believed that this was a great chance of winning their first game for the season but a late withdrawal of Aisling McCarthy meant someone had to step up and that’s exactly what Grace did.

Constantly attacking the ball and putting her body on the line she was rewarded with 14 touches and the goal that secured the win for the Eagles. A single-point win was the outcome and Grace was a huge part of that result.

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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