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The five Irish stars left standing at the business end of the AFLW season

The preliminary finals take place this weekend, with the winners prevailing to next Saturday’s Grand final.

AS MOST PEOPLE wake up on these shores tomorrow morning, the 2022 Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] Grand finalists will be set in stone.

We’re guaranteed Irish involvement on both sides, with at least one Irish player on each of the four teams still in the race for the flag. 

The preliminary finals between Brisbane Lions – reigning champions – and Melbourne FC, and Adelaide Crows and Fremantle, take place on Saturday Down Under; or the wee hours overnight Irish time.

There’s five of our own involved, and here’s a closer look at each of them.

Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions)

Unquestionably one of the biggest Irish names in the AFLW, O’Dwyer was this week named in the initial 40-strong All-Australian squad. With Cora Staunton also included, 21 players will make the final side on Tuesday as history beckons for the Irish pair.

aflw-lions-demons O'Dwyer facing Melbourne earlier this season. Source: AAP/PA Images

But that won’t be front and centre of O’Dwyer’s mind; sealing a return to the Grand final most certainly takes precedence.

A well-established dual star back home, the Tipperary native’s third season Down Under has been on another level. She’s been the epitome of consistency for the Lions and has marked herself out as one of the side’s key players on the wing. Averaging 15 disposals and over 350 metres gained per game, kicking six goals and winning four Lions MVP awards, she’ll hope to hit even higher heights this weekend.

Sinead Goldrick (Melbourne FC)

It’s fair to say that five-time All-Ireland winner and eight-time All-Star Goldrick is a ladies football legend. The Dublin and Foxrock-Cabinteely defender has won almost everything there is to win here, and has also made her impact fell through her three seasons at Melbourne.

goldie Goldrick in training with Melbourne. Source: Melbourne FC.

There’s a sense of unfinished business for the 31-year-old; Goldrick having missed the Dees’ two most recent shots at the finals series. In 2020, she had to return home amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, while a serious hamstring injury kept her sidelined for the closing stages in 2020.

Goldie has returned to her brilliant best after that significant setback, continuing her reputation as a teak-tough tenacious player with a serious hunger for tackles and marks. Melbourne finished second on the ladder behind last year’s finalists Adelaide, and will be gunning to dethrone Brisbane and reach their first-ever Grand final.

Lauren Magee (Melbourne FC)

While Goldrick has had a solid campaign, it’s been a frustrating one for her Dublin and Melbourne team-mate Magee.

lauren-magee Magee pictured during the 2021 All-Ireland final. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The 2018 All-Star featured at the start of the season, but has fallen down the pecking order since. The42 has reported that she’s likely to depart the club after struggling for game-time, with representations on her behalf made to other outfits in recent weeks.

It’s unlikely that the Kilmacud Crokes midfielder – a daughter of former Dublin star Johnny – will feature against Brisbane this weekend, but who knows. Should she be given an opportunity, she could announce herself as a real bolter, with nothing to lose. It would also offer the chance to put herself further in the shop window, should she wish to extend her two-season AFLW career.

Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows)

Speaking of golden opportunities, Considine was handed one ahead of last year’s Grand final. She was trusted into the Crows’ side, having previously been an emergency reserve with her season derailed due to concussion and a dog bite.

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aflw-crows-cats File pic of Considine from 2019. Source: AAP/PA Images

The Clare woman impressed on the big stage — having also made history with a goal in the 2019 Grand final win — but Adelaide ultimately fell short to Brisbane on home soil. That one certainly hurt, and Considine and co. are seeking redemption.

They’re going about it the right way anyway, the 2021 and 2022 minor Premiers in flying form and looking ominous at times. Considine – sister of Irish rugby full-back Eimear – has shone when given the chance too, showing her versatility while lining out at half-back, full-forward, half-forward and midfield.

Áine Tighe (Fremantle Dockers)

Another extremely versatile Irish star, Tighe has had an exceptional debut season. It was long-awaited, after cruel knee injuries in the final stages of pre-season ended her 2020 and 2021 campaigns before they even began.

aine-tighe Tighe in action at a CrossCoders trial camp. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

But it’s been worth the wait for the Leitrim star, who was unlucky not to join O’Dwyer and Staunton in the extended All-Australian squad. Hailed “outstanding” by Freo head coach Trent Cooper, and “an ultimate utility player” by team-mate Gabby O’Sullivan, Tighe has been a standout player for the Dockers across several different positions.

As comfortable in the forwards, defence or the ruck division, Tighe has also contributed on the goal-kicking front, like she so often did on home soil. Now, the towering Kiltubrid native will look to ensure her first experience of the finals series continues.

Saturday’s 2022 AFLW preliminary finals 

  • Melbourne FC v Brisbane Lions, MCG, 2.40am Irish time
  • Adelaide Crows v Fremantle Dockers, Adelaide Oval, 4.40am Irish time.

Alongside TG4′s weekend coverage, you can stream every game live on the AFL Women’s official app and the AFL Live app.

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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