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'It is a story of perseverance' - Former Dublin underage star set for AFL debut with Brisbane Lions

‘Jet-heeled’ James Madden will feature against Port Adelaide at the Gabba.

James Madden in action in the 2017 Leinster football final.
James Madden in action in the 2017 Leinster football final.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

DUBLINER JAMES MADDEN is set to make his AFL debut for Brisbane Lions this weekend, named on the interchange bench for the Round 7 clash with Port Adelaide at the Gabba.

The 21-year-old signed for Brisbane in August 2018, after an impressive run with the Dublin minors and eye-catching outings at the AFL European Combine in UCD in December ’17 — there, he broke the the all-time AFL Draft Combine 20m sprint record — and at the the AFL Academy in Florida in January ’18, to which he was invited as a result.

Madden, of the Ballyboden St Enda’s club, was part of the Sky Blues’ 2017 Leinster minor title-winning side, who lost out to Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final. In the summer of ’18, he lined out at centre-forward for the U20 side that reached the Leinster football final.

In May 2019, he signed a contract extension Down Under, having first joined the club as a Category B international rookie on a two-year contract. That season, he began to learn his craft in the North East Australian Football League [NEAFL], playing 16 games for an undefeated side.

Now, Madden makes his AFL debut, his progression to his first senior game a testament to his determination and tireless work ethic to improve his fundamental skills and understanding of the game, says Lions head of development, Scott Borlace:

“It is a story of perseverance and I’m sure there has been the lure of going home at different times, but he has stuck at it and I’m rapt that he gets the chance to make his debut and I couldn’t be prouder of him.

“He obviously had his speed which is what attracted the club to draft him, but he is also really tough.

“For someone who comes from a sport where there’s not a lot of contact, he relishes the physical stuff and the contest so he will be hard to play against.”

Madden replaces Darcy Gardiner, who must miss this week under the AFL’s concussion protocols, and joins Rhys Mathieson as the two new faces to the side that beat Carlton by 18 points at Marvel Stadium in Round 6.

“One thing you can count on, James Madden will have a Craic,” the team announcement released by Brisbane reads.

“It will be a celebration for the Irish speedster when he makes his AFL debut for the Lions against Port Adelaide at the Gabba on Saturday.

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“Having heard the hype around his blistering pace, Lions fans would be hoping to see the jet-heeled Dubliner put on the afterburners and leave an opponent in his wake.

“But his coaches and teammates are just as excited about his willingness to crack into the contest.”

Brisbane Lions is also the adopted home of Tipperary ace Orla O’Dwyer, the ladies football and camogie dual star helping the AFLW side to Grand Final glory recently.

Elsewhere in the AFL, Colin O’Riordan [Tipperary/Sydney Swans], Zach Tuohy [Laois/Geelong], Mark Keane [Cork/Collingwood] and Darragh Joyce [Kilkenny/St Kilda] are also set to play for their respective sides this weekend. Kerry’s Mark O’Connor [Geelong] is out injured, while Meath’s Conor Nash is among the Hawthorn emergencies.

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Emma Duffy

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