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More Irish players heading home but six to feature this weekend in AFLW Final Series

Stars from Mayo, Tipperary, Cavan and Louth are set to line out in Oz.

WHILE TWO MORE Irish players are following Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy home from the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] and missing this weekend’s finals series, six will feature.

aflw-lions-magpies AAP / PA Images Sarah Rowe and Aishling Sheridan both start for Collingwood. AAP / PA Images / PA Images

The last two rounds of regular AFLW season games have been scrapped amid the Covid-19 crisis, with a new three-week, six-team finals series in place. All will be played behind closed doors.

Carlton have announced that 2019 Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan is returning to Ireland due to the coronavirus pandemic, while The42 understands that Galway forward Mairéad Seoighe is also leaving her North Melbourne side. 

Mayo midfielder Aileen Gilroy is staying put at North, however, and is named on the interchange bench for their knockout showdown against Collingwood.

Two Irish ladies football stars start for Collingwood, with Cavan forward Aishling Sheridan in the half-back line and Sarah Rowe in the centre position. The Pies have named an unchanged team as they look to continue their much-improved season.

North Melbourne have won five of their six games and finished top of Conference A, while Collingwood recorded four wins and two losses to go fourth in Conference B.

aflw-dockers-cats AAP / PA Images Kate Flood on the ball for Freo. AAP / PA Images / PA Images

Fremantle, the only unbeaten team in 2020, have confirmed that Louth All-Ireland winning captain Kate Flood will start on the interchange bench for their do-or-die clash against the history-making Gold Coast Suns.

Leitrim forward Áine Tighe is also on the books at Freo, though is recovering from ACL surgery and The42 understands she will stay in Australia to rehab.

Freo finished top of Conference B after winning six from six, while the Suns – the first Suns side to qualify for finals — were fourth in A with two wins, three defeats and a draw.

Elsewhere, Cora Staunton starts at full-forward for Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants as they face a Goldrick and McEvoy-less Melbourne.

The42 understands that Staunton’s GWS team-mate, Donegal star Yvonne Bonner, is also staying in Australia although ruled out, and that her ankle injury is ‘healing up well.’

aflw-crows-giants AAP / PA Images Cora Staunton starts for the Giants. AAP / PA Images / PA Images

This is shaping up to be a tight battle, with both sides experiencing four wins and two losses in the regular season.

As mentioned, Carlton will be without Irish import Doonan for the finals series after the 25-year-old and the club came to an agreement that she would return home.

“We respect the fact that Jo has made this extremely difficult decision on the eve of the Club’s 2020 finals berth,” GM of Women’s Football Ash Brown said of Doonan, who had played two games.

“Although she will be sorely missed, we will continue to support Jo throughout this challenging time and wish her and her family all the best back home in Ireland.”

The Blues face Brisbane Lions, who have named Tipperary dual star Orla O’Dwyer on their interchange bench. Carlton have won five of their games so far, while Brisbane recorded three wins, two losses and a draw.

aflw-suns-lions AAP / PA Images Orla O'Dwyer in action earlier this season. AAP / PA Images / PA Images

This weekend’s fixtures:

  • North Melbourne v Collingwood (Saturday, 21 March, Ikon Park, 1.40am Irish time)
  • Fremantle v Gold Coast (Saturday, 21 March, Fremantle Oval, 5.4oam Irish time)
  • Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants v Melbourne FC (Saturday, 21 March, Giants Stadium, 3.40am Irish time)
  • Carlton v Brisbane Lions (Sunday, 22 March, Ikon Park, 2.10am Irish time).

(You can stream every game live on the AFL Women’s official app and the AFL Live app, and will livestream every game, with coverage also available on the Telstra TV AFLW app.)

Meanwhile, Western Bulldogs have also confirmed that Irish duo Aisling McCarthy and Katy Herron will return home this weekend, amid the changing coronavirus landscape.

Though their campaign came to an early close, Tipperary star McCarthy told teammates that it’s important they head home while they still can.

“We decided that we’d probably be best off at home, so we’re leaving on Saturday,” she said. “It’s obviously sad, and a pity that it’s all a bit rushed, but the way things are going I guess it’s better to get home rather than be stuck here if things get worse.

“It’s been a great season though, and even coming back for my second year – the step up compared to last year has just been brilliant.” 

dup CrossCoders. Katy Herron and Aisling McCarthy. CrossCoders.

Donegal defender Herron, who enjoyed a stellar debut season Down Under, added:

“Personally I’ve had an amazing time – this is something I never thought I’d get to do, so to do it with a group of people like you all has been so special.

“I know over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried to get the standards up, but that’s because I can see what we have, and I can see how much better we can be as a team. I’m 30 now, and this was something I worked for so hard in life – there’s no point wasting time.”

It’s unclear when other Irish players who have had their season end will come home.

- Additional reporting from Sinéad Farrell

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