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Dublin: 23 °C Tuesday 2 June, 2020

Heslin the latest GAA star to head down under

Eighteen-year-old Westmeath footballer will join Tommy Walsh and Tadhg Kennelly in the AFL next season.

Heslin (right) takes on Dublin's Gary Sweeney in last year's U21 Leinster Football Final.
Heslin (right) takes on Dublin's Gary Sweeney in last year's U21 Leinster Football Final.
Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

HE MAY NOT be the only Irish 18-year-old with plans to move to Australia but John Heslin’s decision to leave Ireland for sunnier climes will be one felt acutely throughout the GAA community, particularly in Westmeath.

Wednesday’s Westmeath Independent reported that the U21 starlet has agreed a two-year contract with an unnamed AFL side which is set to begin in the autumn.

Although the side’s identity cannot be confirmed until an official announcement is made by the club, the fact that the youngster travelled to Melbourne for a trial last week would suggest that it is one of the nine clubs based in the southern city, although the Gold Coast Suns have also been rumoured as his likely destination.

The news of Heslin’s departure will come as a blow to the GAA who continue to find it difficult to compete against the finances and attractive lifestyle offered by AFL clubs.

Heslin’s youth and the promise which he showed in both last year’s U21 championship and this year’s Sigerson Cup serve only to compound the sense of loss.

One small silver lining is the fact that the youngster has declared himself available for this year’s championship, telling the Westmeath Independent that he is determined to earn his place on the county’s senior panel.

I’m hoping to get a run in the championship with the seniors this year just to make sure I’m not missing out on anything.

Heslin also told the paper that although the decision was not an easy one, he was reluctant to pass up with could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I am obviously going to miss my friends and playing with the people I have grown up with, but I have to take the chance while it’s there.

These opportunities don’t come along too often, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

Read more of Heslin’s comments in Wednesday’s Westmeath Independent >

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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