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'Essendon got on to me back in 2013': Conor McManus on interest from AFL clubs

The Aussie Rules club were impressed after McManus made his International Rules debut but nothing came of it.

Conor McManus Ireland vice-captain Conor McManus Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“IF WE CAN get the ball up there we’ll cause problems,” was Joe Kernan’s assessment of the Irish attack at the International Rules press briefing yesterday.

Given the players at his disposal, it’s likely two of the three starting full-forward positions will be occupied by assasins Paul Geaney and Conor McManus for the opening test in Adelaide on 12 November.

Between them, the duo bagged 3-60 in the 2017 championship, including 3-23 from play. They fit the mould for forwards capable of thriving at International Rules – mobile, strong in the air and accurate off either foot.

While Paul Geaney will make his Ireland debut next month, McManus is a veteran of the series having featured against Australia 2013, 2014 and 2015. He was Ireland’s leading scorer each year, while he was named the Irish player of the series in 2015.

Paul Geaney Kerry forward Paul Geaney, who's likely to be paired with McManus in attack Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s clearly a sport he is fond of.

“It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed,” McManus says. “The game is a forwards’ dream in that if you’ve movement inside and you get a good kick-pass and you catch it, which is what you’re doing in the game anyway, it’s a free-kick.

“You’re playing with guys that you’re up against all year and you get on with the boys very well. It is a good environment and especially going Down Under, I think there’s a wee bit more prestige attached to it. The group probably comes together that wee bit better.”

Given his experience, it’s little surprise that Kernan named McManus as his vice-captain for the trip. The Monaghan ace is well-versed on the game-plan Ireland will be deploying against the Aussies.

“We have a strong panel and a strong team,” he explains. “The inside-forward line will hopefully benefit from that.

Conor McManus celebrates Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“The way the guys are talking about playing is directed at the inside-forwards so there’s a certain element of pressure on us to deliver now.

“The skills of the game in International Rules are rewarded. We’re always looking to move the ball forward and into space so it should be something that we’re well used to, it’s just about going out and executing it now.”

McManus’s first ever series in Australia went so well that AFL side Essendon were suitably impressed and made contact with him over a potential switch.

“Essendon got on to me back in 2013 I think it was, after the first time I played International Rules.

“They were looking for me to come out for two or three weeks but I’m not sure they knew that I was 24 or 25 at that time! Nothing really came of it.”

Conor McManus and Luke Hodge Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Had he been younger he admits it’s something he may have been interested in.

“You certainly would have gone down and given it a rattle, see if it could have gone anywhere or something could have came out of it.

“It would be very hard to leave. I suppose you never really know until you’re in that position what you would do but you’d probably have to think seriously about it anyway.

“They take you in at (17 or 18) and for them you’re a blank canvas. They can really get to work you in terms of physically and the techniques and skills of the game.

“But maybe at 24 or 25 it takes that bit more time. The guys that are going out there it takes 12 or 18 months before you even hear their name mentioned in terms of draft football. It is an advantage to go down as early as you can.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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