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'She’s played just 12 games of football in her life and is now being touted as one of the best midfielders in the league'

History-making Tipperary ace Aisling McCarthy is looking to build on two impressive AFLW seasons at a new club.

McCarthy is set for her third season in the AFLW.
McCarthy is set for her third season in the AFLW.
Image: Bernard O’Brien New Age Photography.

AND SO, AISLING McCarthy’s star continues to rise Down Under.

The Tipperary star today became the first Irishwoman — and non-Australian, at that — to be traded between Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] clubs.

McCarthy’s switch to West Coast Eagles from Western Bulldogs was confirmed on day two of the 2020 AFLW Sign and Trade Period opened, and she explained the ins and outs of the move in an in-depth interview with The42 earlier.

After two impressive seasons at the Melbourne-based Bulldogs, she now spreads her wings and heads for Perth — with the Dogs and Eagles now swapping picks, and the former enjoying three picks rather than two, to level the playing field in the Draft.

Career development — both on the field with Aussie Rules and off it in her work as a physiotherapist — her potentially huge importance to West Coast going forward, personal growth, support of her ever-impressive Gaelic football career and the opportunity to see more of the world were all reasons the 24-year-old gave for the switch, while stressing how difficult a decision it was overall.

“This opportunity came at the right time and it’s the right thing for me,” she said.

Her agent and CrossCoders co-founder Jason Hill wholeheartedly agrees.

“This is again a big day for international players in women’s sport here in Australia with Aish being the first non-Australian to be traded between clubs,” he told The42.

While this might not look like much on the surface, the fact that one club has gone out of their way to make her their top trade target and convince her that she will be a big part of their future just shows how talented a player Aish has become in such a short period of time.

“Most look at it as a two-year period but when you break it down to the fact she’s played just 12 games of football in her life and she’s now being touted as one of the best midfielders in the league, it just shows you how talented she is.”

Talented doesn’t even cut it. While McCarthy has enjoyed two stellar campaigns with the Bulldogs, it’s important to trace just how far she’s come in such a short time.

She thrived in a more central, midfield, role in 2020 and was a leading light for the side. Not bad considering she first picked up the oval ball just two years ago. 

In September 2018, McCarthy travelled to Melbourne on a CrossCoders trial camp having never played the sport before. She obviously caught the eye, and was picked up by Western Bulldogs in the Draft a few weeks later.

The 2017 and 2019 All-Ireland intermediate champion — also 2017 Player of the Year and Player of the Match in that year’s final — hasn’t looked back since. 

In her debut year in the Kennel, she kicked seven goals in six appearances, averaging over 10 disposals per game in a forward role, while last season, she well and truly flourished after moving to midfield, averaging 13.5 disposals and four tackles per game.

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Now, it’s on to her next challenge, where she’ll join Mayo Sister Act Niamh and Grace Kelly at West Coast.

aish McCarthy is ready to go again. Source: Inpho/PA.

“With everything that has been happening with Covid, it has been a great win for Aish and the CrossCoders team to find her a great new home in the West Coast Eagles,” Hill continued.

“The way they spent time understanding her, her aspirations not just as an Australian Rules footballer but as a dual-sport athlete, the way they have looked after and adopted Niamh and Grace, and the way they had a clear plan for how she’d be part of the team, improve and ultimately make the Eagles better was second to none and made us feel very comfortable and excited about the prospect of a move.

“It is not easy being an international dual-sport athlete in a part time league. You end up living two lives and this is hard for anyone — especially now with so much uncertainty in the air.

So when a club takes away all the little hassles in your life, it’s like a breath of fresh air and makes you feel excited and motivated to want to try something new and make the leap of faith to move clubs.”

McCarthy – who also captained her club Cahir to the All-Ireland intermediate club camogie title in Croke Park in March 2016 — now plans to represent Tipperary in the 2020 All-Ireland senior football championship group stages, at least, from late October, before making the move back Down Under for pre-season.

But now it’s all about enjoying the fact that the transfer is set in stone, and out in the open, though that’s something McCarthy told The42 she was nervous about: just how “alien” it all is.

Hill completely understands her thoughts behind that, and echoes her sentiments.

“I know it’s very ‘un-Irish’ to move and loyalty plays a huge part in sport so I couldn’t be prouder of Aish for taking the time to speak to a lot of clubs, a lot of people and run a process where she left no rocks unturned and she should be proud of the decision she’s made,” he concluded.

“I cannot wait to see how she performs in the Eagles colours and how she again goes from strength to strength as now a top-tier talent in the league.”

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Emma Duffy

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