Irish Eye

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. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / 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.

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. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

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

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.

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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