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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 29 November 2020

AFL boss 'really disappointed' in Tyrone's McKenna for lining out in club GAA match

The Essendon star scored a goal for his native Eglish as they won a relegation battle at the weekend.

Tyrone native Conor McKenna.
Tyrone native Conor McKenna.

TYRONE NATIVE CONOR McKenna is in hot water with his Australian Football League [AFL] club after playing Gaelic football when on home soil.

Essendon coach John Worsfold says he is “really disappointed” with McKenna after he lined out for his club Eglish at the weekend. 

The 23-year-old scored a crucial second-half goal as his local team maintained their Division 1 league status against Edendork in a relegation play-off on Saturday.

McKenna has been contracted with the Melbourne-based Bombers since 2014 when he signed as a rookie after catching the eye with Tyrone. He starred for the Red Hand minors who reached the 2013 All-Ireland football final.

In September 2017, the defender signed a new four-year deal and remains a key member of the set-up.

But Worsfold isn’t particularly happy with him after his decision to play club football last weekend.

“That was something that we weren’t aware of,” he told SEN Radio. “We certainly didn’t send him back there to play footy.

“I was really disappointed when I heard that. We know that he’s passionate about his Gaelic footy, he’s passionate about footy. He’s an energetic young man, his personality is so up and about. I can imagine them saying, ‘Do you want to have a kick?’

“It puts them [Irish AFL players who play GAA] at risk of an injury, of doing something that’s outside their contract. In effect, it puts them at high risk of costing themselves a contract or a lot of money if they get a serious injury.”

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There was a similar situation last year when Geelong’s Mark O’Connor played for Dingle in their Kerry SFC quarter-final against Austin Stacks.

Afterwards, the AFL club stated they could not permit him to play club GAA games as ‘it’s a breach to his contract’.

Worsfold noted that the club have spoken to McKenna’s management, and will sort it out when he gets back — talking through “why it’s not appropriate” and “risks that you’re taking”.

“I’ve reflected on it,” he added. “I won’t speak to Conor until he gets back, and I will be disappointed that he played, and at least didn’t feel like he could have rung and just checked. He might have had a compelling argument.

“Out of everything you can do as a footballer in the off-season, going and playing non-contact football would be the best. It’s better than going snow-skiing or playing basketball or playing rugby, something you don’t do day in, day out.

“He went and did something that’s probably the safest form of exercise that he could possibly do, but he did it in a competitive environment.”

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Emma Duffy

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