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Áine Tighe stars for Fremantle on long-awaited debut after difficult road with injury

Rachel Kearns also made her AFLW debut, though Geelong fell short to the North Melbourne side of her Mayo team-mate Aileen Gilroy.

Áine Tighe in action for Freo this morning.
Áine Tighe in action for Freo this morning.

ÁINE TIGHE’S LONG wait for her Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] debut was worth it as she helped her Fremantle Dockers side past West Coast Eagles in their 2022 opener.

The Leitrim star really impressed in the 6.7 (43) to 2.3 (15) win at a packed Fremantle Oval, putting two injury-ravaged seasons and a horrific run of knee injuries behind her.

Tighe has endured a difficult road to get to this point, staying put in Australia to rehab and spending over two years away from family and friends to chase the AFLW dream, so it was surely an emotional occasion.

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but I’ve learnt a huge amount about the game as well,” the Kiltubrid woman said beforehand, “which hopefully will hold me in good stead when we do get out on the field.”

That, it certainly did, as she played a central role to steer Freo past West Coast Eagles in the derby encounter.

Mayo Sister Act Niamh and Grace Kelly, and Tipperary star Aisling McCarthy all featured for the losing side.

There will be full deferred coverage of the encounter on TG4 at 5.15pm.

Earlier, two Mayo team-mates faced off as Aileen Gilroy’s North Melbourne edged out Rachel Kearns’ much-improved Geelong on a scoreline of 4.2 (26) to (18).

Kearns, the newest Irish face in the AFLW, impressed on her debut, kicking a minor score, but North’s experience shone through as they survived a scare to run out eight-point winners.

rachel-kearns Rachel Kearns also made her AFLW debut today. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee were both absent as their Melbourne side enjoyed a 6.10 (46) to 3.4 (22) win at Western Bulldogs.

AFLW Ireland say they didn’t feature due to Covid protocols, with both players posting well wishes on Instagram while watching from home.

Looking forward to tomorrow, five Irish players are due to start across three games, with Bríd Stack and Cora Staunton set to grab the headlines.

Cork legend Stack will make her own long-awaited AFLW debut in the Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants half-backs after a challenging recovery from a serious neck injury, while Staunton will etch her name into the history books against Gold Coast Suns.

Named to start in the half-forwards, the Mayo great will become the oldest AFLW player in history at the age of 40 years and 27 days.

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In the battle of the two most recent Premiership champions, Tipperary dual star Orla O’Dwyer will line out in the Brisbane Lions’ midfield, though Clare’s Ailish Considine will not be involved in the Adelaide Crows’ 23.

Mayo’s Sarah Rowe and Aishling Sheridan of Cavan, meanwhile, will both be in from the start for Collingwood’s meeting with Carlton.

AFLW Round One results / fixtures

Friday 7 January

  • St Kilda 3.5 (23) Richmond 10.1 (61)

Saturday 8 January

  • North Melbourne 4.2 (26) Geelong Cats 2.6 (18)
  • Western Bulldogs 3.4 (22) Melbourne 6.10 (46) 
  • Fremantle 6.7 (43) West Coast Eagles 2.3 (15)

Sunday 9 January

  • Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions, Flinders University Stadium, 3.10am – full deferred coverage on TG4 at 11.15am
  • Carlton v Collingwood, Ikon Park, 5.10am 
  • Gold Coast Suns v GWS Giants, Great Barrier Reef Arena, 7.10am.

Irish players involved in the 2022 AFLW season

  • Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)
  • Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)
  • Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)
  • Rachel Kearns (Geelong Cats / Mayo)
  • Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)
  • Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)
  • Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)
  • Bríd Stack (GWS Giants / Cork)
  • Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim)
  • Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Lauren Magee (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Ailish Considine (Clare / Adelaide Crows)

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