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'The game is kind of made for her. She's one of the best I've ever played with anyway'

Two of Bríd Stack’s former team-mates and an old foe are backing the Cork great to shine in the AFLW.

WHILE THE DUST has settled on the somewhat surprising news, the excitement continues as Cork great Bríd Stack prepares to open the next chapter of her illustrious sporting career on the other side of the world.

The 11-time All-Ireland winning ladies football star is set for a major change, having signed for Aussie Rules side Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants earlier this month.

While it’s a dramatic development for Stack, who announced her inter-county retirement in January 2019, many are backing the former Rebels defender to shine in Australia.

juliet-murphy-and-brid-stack-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Bríd Stack with Juliet Murphy after the 2011 All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Her former team-mates, Orla Finn and Juliet Murphy, and an-ex opponent in the inter-county arena in Dublin’s Sinéad Aherne are three who expect the 34-year-old to thrive in this new environment, alongside her new Giants colleagues and fellow Irish stars Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner.

While Cavan native Laura Corrigan Duryea was the first Irishwoman to fly the flag in the AFLW in its inaugural season of 2017, Staunton broke the mould and crossed codes from inter-county ladies football a year later.

Since then, many have followed in her footsteps with 18 Irishwomen in the league last season and 17 set for the 2020 campaign. Stack, however, becomes the first Cork player to take up an AFLW deal, which is pretty huge.

While she’s making the move in November with her husband Carthach and one-year-old son Carthach Óg, Finn is delighted for her former team-mate and expects her to grab this appealing opportunity with both hands.

“It’s massive. It’s a great opportunity for her, and I think she’s dead right to go. It’s nice for her as well having her husband and her son going over with her, it will make it that bit easier for her.

She’s a player that’s definitely suited to the game. She’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with anyway, and that I’ve had the privilege of playing with.

“I think she will really fly it over there and the game is kind of made for her.”

Murphy, another icon of the game here and central pillar of Éamonn Ryan’s all-conquering Cork side, is also pleased to see Stack spreading her wings and undertaking a new challenge.

“I just think it’s fantastic. I think why not? For Bríd, and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying this, I don’t think she was ready for her career to end in the way it did with Cork in particular.

A girl that has given so much to to Cork over the years, I think she felt that she had more to prove. And I think this gives her that huge opportunity without any pressure either at the same time because it’s something very new.

“It’ll take a bit of time for her to get to grasps with the game even though I know she’s been doing some behind-the-scenes practice. But I think it’s a great opportunity for her to go and for her family, and to just to give it a lash really.”

Murphy, who was a team-mate of Stack’s for eight of Cork’s 11 All-Ireland successes, feels that this could pave the way for more Leesiders to cross codes.

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That said, Stack’s situation is slightly different because she had pulled the curtain down on her inter-county career, while most others choose to balance both.

“It’s always the case, isn’t it, when somebody breaks the mould,” she continued. “You end up having someone to contact if somebody else’s is approached, they have somebody they know to contact and look for advice.

“Of course, if Bríd’s experience is a positive one, I’m sure she will positively influence other girls who may be approached to go. I think it’s different in that Bríd had more or less finished her career with Cork, so there’s no team-mates giving out about the fact that she’s abandoned ship and left the boat, as such.

“I think it’s a different situation for Bríd that she’s not, in a sense, letting down anyone behind her either.”

sinead-aherne-and-brid-stack Aherne facing Stack in the 2016 final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin’s three-in-a-row All-Ireland winning captain Aherne, who has seen her own team-mates Sinéad Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy excel at Melbourne with Lauren Magee set to join them ahead of next season, also paid tribute to the ladies football legend ahead of her next move.

“Bríd was always a great athlete and I have no doubt that she’s thrown herself absolutely in to being able to get into contention for a spot over there,” the star forward said, having gone head-to-head with Stack through the years.

“I’m sure it’s a very competitive process to try and get drafted in the first place, particularly having been out of competitive action at inter-county.

“Fair play to her, it’s a brilliant challenge, to be able to go down and challenge yourself in a professional [environment] and a new sport. I wish her the best.”

While Aherne confirmed that all three Dubliners are available for the senior inter-county season, which kicks off this weekend, she said an AFLW move is “not something I’ve given a whole lot of thought to” herself.

The AFLW is currently in a rush to secure visa exemptions for Irish players amidst the Covid-19 crisis, with many due to miss pre-season Down Under due to inter-county commitments on these shores.

The 2021 AFLW season could also be set for a new look due to the pandemic, with a decision on the structure and timing to be made in mid-to-late November. 

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Emma Duffy

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