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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 24 February, 2020

Losing 'one of the finest athletes' in Meath to the AFL but hope for the future with McEntee

Colm O’Rourke was speaking after Simonstown Gaels exited the Leinster club SFC yesterday.

AS CONOR NASH warmed up on the sideline for Simonstown Gaels yesterday, the crowd surely wondered whether this was the last time they would ever watch him play for his club.

Conor Glass and Conor Nash Conor Glass and Conor Nash warm up at Aussie Rules trials. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tomorrow he becomes the latest Irishman to try his hand at Aussie Rules. Nash, 18, is flying out to join AFL giants Hawthorn, who’ve signed him as an international rookie.

It remains to be seen whether Nash’s five-minute cameo at the end of their Leinster quarter-final loss to Rhode will mark the end of his GAA career.

Simonstown boss Colm O’Rourke said after the game that Hawthorn were “strongly against” the prodigous talent taking the field at all. Nash didn’t start but indicated to O’Rourke in the final ten minutes that he wanted to join the action.

“It’s just a pity that Hawthorn didn’t feel he should play today (Sunday),” the Meath legend told Newstalk’s Oisin Langan after the game.

“They were strongly against him playing for us today and, in fairness to him, it went hard on him to see the rest of the lads going out and him not to go with them.

“He said in the last ten minutes that he’d give it a go. He made a difference when he came in as well.”

Colm O’Rourke Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Rourke was full of praise for his former student and had quite a positive attitude to his departure.

“He’s a multi-talented fella and he’s a nice fella. I had him at school for the last six years and he’s just a brilliant young fella in every way.

He continued: “He is a massive loss to our club, but we won a championship which we probably wouldn’t have won without him. So we’re very grateful that he was around for that time.

“We’re losing one of the finest athletes that has ever come up through the ranks in Meath. He was only 18 in July, so when you have a man like that with the physique, the pace, the power, the physical ability, the football ability, the intelligence, it’s a massive loss.

“But never say never. Maybe in two or three or five years’ time he’ll come back and he’ll play a role for club and county at that stage.”

When it was put to O’Rourke that something should be done to stop the drain of underage talent to Australia, he had a different mindset.

“I don’t know. I think for centuries Irish people have travelled abroad for fame and fortune. Some went to London, New York, all over the world and young people in Ireland now are educated, ambitious, they’re looking outwards.

“The professional game too is an appealing thing to most people and I don’t think there’s anything that can be done or should be done because I think it would be narrow minded of us. Most of the fellas that go to Australia come back and they come back better players.”

Former Ballyboden St Enda’s boss Andy McEntee has recently taken over the reigns as Meath manager. O’Rourke feels Royals must target promotion in the league.

“I think if you were here today you would see that there’s a bit of spirit and passion left in Meath football. I’m sure there’s a few players on our team that he might be looking to.

“I don’t think Meath are as bad as we have looked over the last few years. Mick O’Dowd tried hard. I think Andy McEntee will bring a different type of emphasis.

“I think he’ll certainly improve the team. Meath are in Division 2, have struggled in the championship. I think we need get up into Division 1 and that’s where all the big teams are. That’s where the real action is.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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