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AFL clubs chasing Red Hand starlet McKenna as he catches the eye in trials

“I do definitely want to come over. It’d be an unbelievable experience if I get a chance to go,” the Tyrone prospect says.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

TYRONE TEENAGER Conor McKenna has revealed that he would welcome the opportunity to become an AFL player, with a host of clubs queuing up to talk to him after his stellar week in a developmental camp in London last week.

Having initially caught the eye in December’s talent combine in Dublin, McKenna was one of 11 Irish players on a European composition that trained with the best Australian prospects under the eagle eye of former Kerry and Sydney Swans champion, Tadhg Kennelly.

Remarkably, the 18-year-old from Eglish contended for man-of-the-match honours in a combined game with the Australian players, scoring four goals in his first game of Aussie rules and impressing with his searing pace. He also stood out when the European selection played against the much stronger Australian Institute of Sport/AFL Academy side.

It is thought that up to six clubs are interested in exploring the possibility of recruiting McKenna – a brother of Tyrone senior, Ryan – with Essendon continuing to monitor his progress having had a scout of their own at the December camp.

“Geelong, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and West Coast have all been talking to me in the last week,” says McKenna. “It was strange at the start but all clubs are asking the same questions about my family and background, what I think of the experience, and whether I want to go to Australia.

“I do definitely want to come over. It’d be an unbelievable experience if I get a chance to go. It’s a good thing I suppose that there’s clubs talking – you’re a better chance to get over.”

Source: Ulster Colleges/YouTube

McKenna was one of the stars of last year’s minor championships, earning man-of-the-match accolades from the Ulster final and All-Ireland semi-final, and scoring a goal in the All-Ireland final defeat to Mayo.

He continued that scintillating form with St Pat’s, Armagh, above, and scored 1-7 in their MacRory Cup (Ulster) loss to St Patrick’s, Maghera, who narrowly lost the Hogan Cup (All-Ireland) final on Saturday.

Amazingly, he had only had one session with the Sherrin football prior to his week in London but enjoyed the opportunity to showcase his talents during the two games.

“I found it harder during the training sessions because you overthink too much, but when you’re out on the pitch you just do things you can and it works. I like running with the ball in hand rather than waiting for it.”

He has already asked Tadhg Kennelly and Daniel Flynn, who is currently at home on a leave of absence from Port Adelaide but is considering a return, about what he could expect if he were to make the move to Australia.

“(Tadhg) said his first two years were horrible and he just wanted to go home but he stuck at it and he’s one of the top players in the AFL. I just hope to do the same and go over and have a good season.

“It’s still something I want to do. Worst comes to worst, you go over for two years and come home, but you can go and love it for the rest of your life.”

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About the author:

Daragh Ó'Conchúir

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