Football the focus for Tyrone's McKenna after Essendon exit but 'book not fully closed yet' in Australia

The former AFL star has also hit out at the Melbourne media after bidding farewell to the game – for now, anyway.

TYRONE’S CONOR MCKENNA has opened up on his decision to call time on his AFL career at the age of 24 — but has not ruled out a return to Australia in the future.

After six years and 79 games with Essendon, confirmation of the Eglish man’s departure came overnight following a turbulent few weeks.

2020 was the most dramatic year of McKenna’s short AFL career. He tested positive for Covid-19 in June, and soon found himself at the centre of an intense media storm — which he discussed in detail with ABC news, slamming the Melbourne media.

“There’s just a free-for-all to say whatever they want,” he said. ” If there are no repercussions, they’ll just continue to do that and treat players like a piece of meat.

The reality of it is, I had a deadly disease … [but] people were more worried about the AFL being put off than my actual life.”

But in his parting words with the Bombers, McKenna reflected on his Aussie Rules career in a more positive manner, the well-documented bouts of homesickness he suffered aside.

The former Tyrone minor star — who was contracted until 2021 — made the decision to retire over the past six weeks, taking himself out of contention for selection of late.

“Probably this year, I haven’t really been enjoying my football as much,” McKenna explained in a farewell video with Essendon FC.

“I sort of just realised if it’s going to be over at the end of the year, I might as well finish it now. A pretty, not easy decision, but with everything going on the last year, I just said it’s the right time for me to go home.

It’s something I’ve always looked forward to, to be able to say it and now that I’m retiring, it’s a very happy day for me. I’m looking forward to going home and starting a new chapter in my life, to my family and back to Gaelic football, which I’ve always dreamt of doing.”

“It’s hard after six hears,” he added on sharing his decision with his team-mates. “I’ve lived [almost] a third of my life over here. It’s pretty difficult to say goodbye.”

In the video, McKenna delved deeper into his struggles heading back to Australia every year, though shared his pride in how he established himself as a “consistently good footballer” as he reflected on his career highlights and proudest moments.


One of which was coming fourth in the battle for the Crichton Medal – the Bombers’ highest individual honour, awarded to the best-and-fairest player of the season — last year after impressive performances week in, week out.

“I achieved what I wanted to achieve so that’s probably where I lost a bit of ambition this year,” McKenna added, before looking to what’s next. “I fly home probably next week. I’ll go up to Sydney to see my friends for a few days and then fly back next week.

I’ll have to get a job for the first time so I’ll probably work with my Dad or look into a bit of university maybe, and then start playing Gaelic again which is something I’ve really, really looked forward to doing since I first came over here.

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“That’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back involved in.”

While thanking Essendon fans for their support, McKenna concluded by saying he could return one day. 

“Hopefully at some stage I might be able to come back out,” he said. “I’m not really sure, I could go home and in two years’ time I might want to come back out and play AFL.

“I don’t think the books fully closed yet, I might be able to come back out and maybe hit the 100 mark but at this stage, it’s over.”

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