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'One of the most exciting Irish talents' helps North Melbourne power top of AFLW ladder

Mayo star Aileen Gilroy picked up where she left off in North’s emphatic opening round win over Geelong.

North Melbourne celebrate after their emphatic win.
North Melbourne celebrate after their emphatic win.

MAYO STAR AILEEN Gilroy picked up where she left off in Australia, playing a central part as North Melbourne Kangaroos produced an emphatic victory in their Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] opener.

North Melbourne kicked 11 goals past Geelong Cats in a sensational 11.5 (71) to 1.3 (9) win at GMHBA Stadium to power to the top of the latter on score difference.

All-Australian Emma King grabbed the headlines for North, the former Collingwood star chipping in with three first-quarter goals, eight disposals and nine hit-outs, while Ellie Gavalas also fired three goals.

In her second season at the Kangaroos, Gilroy finished Sunday’s clash with 13 disposals, 11 kicks and seven tackles in the half-back line, having been a consistent top performer for the side last year.

“Aileen Gilroy is probably one of the most exciting Irish talents out here,” as CrossCoders agent Jason Hill told The42, predicting a big 2021 for the St Brigid’s clubwoman and former Irish soccer international.

“When you speak to the coaches and the list managers, I think they were most surprised by her. The physicality she brings isn’t necessarily something you’d expect from a Gaelic footballer.

“With North Melbourne looking to push to win a Premiership this year, I expect her to be an integral part of that backline.”

Elsewhere overnight, Tipperary triple-threat Orla O’Dwyer was on the scoresheet as her Brisbane Lions side also enjoyed a convincing winning start to the season against Richmond.

O’Dwyer lined out at left wing and added one behind in the 5.11 (41) to 1.6 (12) victory at the Swinburne Centre, as Brisbane — twice losing Grand finalists — opened their bid for their maiden Premiership crown on a high.

In the Sunday battle with the most Irish interest riding on it, there was joy for Leitrim’s Áine Tighe as her Frematle Dockers outfit proved too strong for Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants.

Iconic ladies football duo Cora Staunton and Bríd Stack were on the losing side, but just Staunton featured in Freo’s 8.10 (58) to 4.4 (28) victory.

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cora brid Staunton presenting Stack with her GWS jersey, alongside head coach Al McConnell. Source: Cora Staunton Twitter.

Staunton, in her fourth AFLW season aged 39, was held scoreless at full-forward but Mayo’s four-time All-Ireland winner put in a big shift. Both Stack (neck) and Tighe (knee) were sidelined with season-threatening injuries, as Freo enjoyed a second-half surge.

Heartfelt tributes were paid to late GWS player Jacinda Barclay before the game.

Afterwards, the Giants were forced to race to their airport where they and Adelaide flew out of Western Australia after a five-day lockdown was declared there.

Yesterday, Clare’s Ailish Considine helped Adelaide Crows to an opening-round win over West Coast Eagles — for whom Tipperary’s Aisling McCarthy and Mayo Sister Act Niamh and Grace Kelly impressed — while Sinéad Goldrick was the only Dublin star to feature in Melbourne’s victory against Gold Coast Suns. (Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee are the others on the Dees’ books.)

Screenshot 2021-01-31 at 16.28.03 The top of the AFLW ladder. Source: AFLW.

And in the first game of the season on Thursday, Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan kicked two goals as Collingwood beat Carlton. Mayo’s Sarah Rowe was ruled out with a shoulder injury.

14 Irish players are involved in the 2021 season, with seven counties represented across eight clubs, and TG4 are covering some action every weekend. The Irish language station will show a highlights programme from round one at 8pm tomorrow night.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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