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Former AFL player surprised at Keane's return and urges patience with Mullin decision

Ray Connellan give some insight into the dilemmas that faced Mark Keane and Oisin Mullin.

IT’S BEEN AN interesting few days for the AFL’s Irish experiment.   

pjimage (3) Mark Keane has ended his stay with Collingwood while Oisin Mullin's situation is unclear. Source: Inpho

Cork have been handed a major boost with the news that Mark Keane is ending his stint with AFL side Collingwood, as reported by The42 earlier today.

Meanwhile, uncertainty surrounds Mayo’s Oisin Mullin signing with Collingwood with the two-time Young Footballer of the Year reportedly still weighing up the move. 

Westmeath footballer Ray Connellan, who returned home in 2019 after stints with St Kilda and Essendon, was close to Keane during his time in Melbourne. 

While Keane had been busy playing both codes after his return, Connellan admitted he didn’t expect him to pull the plug on his AFL career. 

“Look it’s massive (for Cork). I’m surprised to hear that,” said the Westmeath star. “I thought Mark was enjoying it. I’m surprised but at the same time I’m not surprised because I know Mark has been playing an awful lot of hurling and football when he got home.

“I was shocked with the amount of sport he was playing when he was home, he wasn’t having an off-season at all. He was just hurling and football four times a week. So I think maybe the call of home has crept in. That’s a massive addition for Cork in both codes no matter what he decides to do.

“He’s a young guy but he’s a huge man, he’s a real athlete, he towers over me,” he continued. “He’s fit and fast, and really aggressive. I think no matter what he comes home and does he should be a massive addition to whatever panel he gets involved in. So it’s big news.”

It’s unclear too if Mullin still plans on departing these shores to pursue a professional career Down Under. He inked a two-year rookie deal with Geelong, confirmed on the club’s website, and they handed him the number 34 jersey ahead of the 2022 season.

But with AFL teams beginning pre-season training earlier this week, the Western People reported that Mullin has yet to travel to Australia to link up with his new team. 

James Horan cast further doubt on the switch with his comments after the FBD League tie against Galway last weekend.  

“It’s just a difficult situation and Oisin and his family deserve the time and space to work through it,” said the Mayo boss.

It fuelled speculation that the 21-year-old may opt to turn down the move in favour of continuing his burgeoning career with Mayo, where they’ve reached the last two All-Ireland finals. 

Connellan can understand why a player of Mullin’s calibre may be having second thoughts. 

“Particularly for a guy who’s as good as Oisin is,” he said. “I was never the footballer Oisin Mullin is. Never a Young Footballer of the Year and I certainly would never have had realistic aspirations of winning an All-Ireland with Westmeath like he’d have with Mayo.

“So there’s probably a couple of things from a sporting point of view that are maybe holding him back or causing him to be a little bit reluctant. I don’t know the circumstances he’s in at the minute and why there’s a delay. But there’s also the fact that, look, for any youngster going over it’s going to change your life one way or the other. 

ray-connellan Ray Connellan was speaking to promote the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“You can go over and have a massively positive career. You can earn a lot of money and be very comfortable. Or you can go over, hate it and move home and things won’t change very much. But you might have to weigh up where he’s at in his life now.”

After three years in Oz, Connellan was 24 when he started studying a degree in UCD. Finding himself three or four years behind his peers, he’s currently his final year while they’re well into their working careers. 

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“So that might be another thing, the fact he’s a little bit older he might be thinking, ‘If I go here and it doesn’t work out, where am I when I come home then?’ There’s so much for an individual to work out.

“If you had a magic ball that you could look into and they could show you how it’s all going to go it would be fantastic but the level of uncertainty and the unknown is just something that might be creeping into his head a little bit. He has massive options here.”

He accepts that Mullin has all the tools to thrive in the AFL, but urged the media and public to have some patience with the youngster as he mulls over a difficult decision.

“He’s a big strong guy for his age. He’s conditioned to an elite level. His running ability is through the roof. His repeated sprint efforts in games are massive. He’s clearly quite a skilful footballer and very intelligent and he’s well able as a defender, he can have a task of marking a man and take him out of a game which is something that’s very valuable over there.

“Mentally and physically he’d certainly have all the skills and I’m sure he’d have no issue transferring those across to AFL. If I could do it to some level he’d be able to do it to an elite level over there.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. For now I’d say just give him as much time and space as he needs because he’s a young guy with the Irish media all staring at him sporting wise, so give him as much time and space as he needs to come to a mature decision and let him just get on with it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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