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More winning debuts, goals and county teammates going head-to-head on AFLW opening weekend

Tipperary star Aisling McCarthy led the Irish contingent Down Under.

aflw-saints-bulldogs Aisling McCarthy celebrates a goal. Source: AAP/PA Images

ON A WEEKEND where 15 Irish players played a central part in Aussie Rules matches Down Under, two-time All-Ireland winning Tipperary star Aisling McCarthy was the pick of the bunch as she opened her second Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] season on a high.

2017 intermediate Player of the Year McCarthy kicked her first goal of the new campaign and helped the Western Bulldogs to a 26-point win over AFLW newcomers St Kilda.

The Cahir ace followed the goal up with a superb handpass assist shortly after, and stepped up with 13 possessions and three tackles as a capacity crowd of 8,000 watched on at RSEA Park.

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Congratulations  to Aisling McCarthy, Western Bulldogs who is our inaugural AFL Ireland Women’s IRISH PLAYER OF THE ROUND, after the weekend’s Round 1 of AFL Women’s 2020 👏 👏 Aisling had a massive game playing a more central role with 13 possessions, 3 tackles and a goal as Bulldogs picked up a first round win. Fantastic to see Cora Staunton, GWS Giants up at the top of the table after a brilliant performance in her comeback game. It was if she was never away with a massive 14 possessions, which included 13 kicks and 3 tackles. The top five then is completed by players who were all making their debuts. Next up we have Aileen Gilroy who took her impressive form from the practice rounds straight into Game 1 with 10 possessions and a crunching 4 tackles for North Melbourne Kangaroos. Following that we have Orla O’Dwyer, who demonstrated her incredible athleticism in a winning debut for Brisbane Lions which also saw her kick her first goal. And rounding out the Top 5 is Clara Fitzpatrick, St Kilda who had a big defensive performance racking up 5 tackles and 2 marks in a historic first ever game for the Saints Women. It was incredible weekend of highlights all round for the Irish Players including some very touching Guernsey Presentations. Aine Tighe (injured) presented Kate Flood with her Dockers jumper, Sarah Rowe did the honors for Collingwood teammate and friend Aishling Sheridan ,Katy Herron had her jersey presented to her by her father, & Sinead Goldrick received hers from former Dublin and Melbourne player Brian Stynes, brother of Demons Legend Jim Stynes. Along with Flood, Herron, Sheridan & O’Dwyer listed above there was also a debut win for Joanne Doonan, Carlton, while second season players Yvonne Bonner, GWS Giants and Sarah Rowe, Collingwood also got their first wins of 2020 on the board. Premiership Winner Ailish Considine was back in action for Adelaide Crows in a new defensive role. Mayo sisters Grace & Niamh Kelly also made their debut for West Coast Eagles. We can’t wait for Round 2 We will be awarding our Irish Player of the Round each Monday and at the end of the season we will name our Irish Player of The Year 💪 ☘️ #AWholeNewBallGame

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Donegal’s Katy Herron was thrown into the Bulldogs winners’ circle after her encouraging competitive debut, while Down native Clara Fitzpatrick made her bow on a losing note with St Kilda.

Elsewhere in the Sunday games, there was a fierce battle between Mayo teammates Sarah Rowe, Niamh Kelly and Grace Kelly as Collingwood and West Coast Eagles locked horns at Victoria Park.

The Kelly sisters impressed for the latter in their inaugural AFLW match, but it was Rowe’s Pies who came out on top as she welcomed her fellow Mayo natives to the Australian League. 

aflw-magpies-eagles Rowe welcomes Kelly to the AFLW. Source: AAP/PA Images

aflw-magpies-eagles Mayo duo Sarah Rowe (centre) and Niamh Kelly (right). Source: AAP/PA Images

Cavan star forward Aishling Sheridan also caught the eye in her competitive debut with Collingwood. “It didn’t really hit me that the game was on today until probably this morning,” she told the club’s website afterwards. “I started feeling nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. It was all completely new.

“I’m so happy now, it was brilliant. It’s out first round one win in four years, so that’s amazing in itself.”

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And Louth’s All-Ireland winning captain Kate Flood also enjoyed a winning debut with Fremantle, who triumphed over Geelong on a scoreline of 6.8 (44) to 4.4 (28).

An incredible 41,975 watched on at the Freo Oval, as Flood flew the Irish flag in the absence of injured teammate Áine Tighe of Leitrim. After undergoing knee surgery, she presented Flood with her match jersey in a lovely moment.

In the weekend’s earlier games, Tipperary dual star Orla O’Dwyer was the star of the show as she scored with her first touch, while Cora Staunton made her AFLW return.

Multi Dublin All-Ireland winner and All-Star Sinéad Goldrick enjoyed a winning debut with Melbourne on Saturday, and was presented with her jersey by fellow Dublin All-Ireland champion and former AFL player Brian Stynes — brother of Jim.

Source: Melbourne Football Club/YouTube

Catch up with the Friday and Saturday action here.

- Keep up to date with the 2020 AFLW season on The42, CrossCoders and on AFL Ireland’s social channels.

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Emma Duffy

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