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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 5 July, 2020

'Proud' team-mates watching on but 'can't wait' to welcome AFLW stars back to fold

Donegal’s Yvonne Bonner and Mayo’s Sarah Rowe will be big misses in their respective set-ups as the league kicks off.

WITH THREE IRISH stars starting in their respective fixtures this weekend, there’ll surely be a heightened interest in the AFLW action Down Under this season.

sarah yvonne Keep an eye: Yvonne Bonner and Sarah Rowe.

Cora Staunton’s back for more, of course, but the four other inter-county footballers who have switched codes are ready for their first belt at the league.

Donegal attacking ace Yvonne Bonner has linked up with the 11-time All-Star at Greater Western Syndey (GWS) and starts for the Giants in the forward pocket while Staunton reverts to the backs. 

Elsewhere, Mayo’s Sarah Rowe starts in the Collingwood full-forward line, with Ailish Considine and Aisling McCarthy both in the mix at Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs respectively as their sides prepare to lock horns. 

Bonner, Conside and McCarthy are all products of the CrossCoders programme, a trial which saw 11 Irish girls travel to Melbourne for an intense AFLW trial in September. 

31-year-old Bonner has really impressed since taking up the oval ball and is widely tipped to make strides in Australia, just as her new team-mate Staunton did last year.

“I’m so proud of her,” her club and county-mate Karen Guthrie said of the Glenfin forward at the launch of the Lidl Ladies National Football League on Tuesday.

“She’s doing fantastically well. If there’s anybody that you would have to pick that would fit that lifestyle, it’s Yvonne. She’s extremely professional in everything that she does in terms of her football, the way she looks after herself and her whole lifestyle.

“She’s extremely well suited to it and I hope she does really, really well at it. She’s enjoying it so far. She says it’s not a million miles away in terms of the set-up, in terms of the way the top teams would operate here.

AFLW GIANTS BLUES Cora Staunton is ready for her second year. Source: AAP/PA Images

“It’s a fantastic experience and it’s probably going to become more and more appealing to players here because of the fact that you can come back and play in the championship. You miss all the league football here in the bad weather but that’s not a bad thing either! 

“Ach listen, it’s a huge opportunity and we’re so excited for her. We look forward to her games coming up just as much as our own!”

In a recent trial game, Bonner did really well against Sunday’s opposition Brisbane, kicking a goal while her lightning pace really caught the eye.

“You’ve a really short space of time to learn all those skill sets,” Guthrie added. “Yvonne has it naturally.

“You even see now with Cora being her second year, it’s probably a wee bit easier now this time around. She’s kind of found her feet a wee bit more and you’d see that. 

“You don’t have a massive amount of time to pick up all the rules and the changes. Even the oval football is a huge thing. Until you have it in your hands, the dynamic of all that is very different.

“She’s doing brilliant and she’ll do really, really well beacuse she’s got the work ethic for it.”

Guthrie, who’s entering her 14th season playing inter-county football for Donegal, says she doesn’t think playing Aussie Rules professionally is something that appeals to her.

Launch of 2019 Lidl Ladies National Football Leagues Guthrie with Sinead Goldrick on Tuesday. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

She’s very much a home bird herself, but would grab an opportunity to go out and watch her good friend in action with both hands.

While Donegal will be missing a key player for much of the league, Mayo will also be without 23-year-old Rowe as she forges a professional life in Melbourne with the Pies. 

A forward of her stature will be a big loss for Peter Leahy, particularly as the Westerners rebuild after the difficulties of 2018.

While she’s made waves Oz and all is going well so far, Rowe has reaffirmed her commitment to playing inter-county football time and time again since striking a deal with Collingwood in August.

“She’s flying it,” Mayo captain Niamh Kelly told The42 at Tuesday’s launch in Croke Park. “I was just chatting to her there, she’s loving it.

“She has her first game on Saturday. That’s the first big game so yeah she’ll be looking forward to it, but we can’t wait to get her back!

“She’s in serious shape. She’s putting in the hard work out there. She’s training hard. That 2k test was super,” Kelly adds of the team record and PB of 6:54 her team-mate recorded in early January.

“Look, hopefully she’s flying fit when she comes home as well. Looking forward to her coming home now. She’s focused out there on that now but when she comes back she’ll be focused on Mayo.”

Cavan forward Aishling Sheridan, who was one of the 11 Irish CrossCoders, spoke in-depth about the experience and how enjoyable it was, saying she “could be giving it another go at some stage”.

A good friend, former housemate and DCU team-mate of Rowe’s, the Mullahoran star told The42:

“I see Sarah over there and she’s having a brilliant time. She’s really performing well, she scored two goals in a challenge match and got a really good 2k test. It’s brilliant to see that she’s getting on well over there. 

“Same with Aish Mac [McCarthy], I hear she’s doing well too. I’d say it was a big challenge for any of them moving out but they seem to have settled in.

“Their competition starts at the same time as our league, we have that in common and I’m sure we’ll be texting over and back seeing how everyone’s getting on.”


Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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Emma Duffy

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