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Aussie rules moves good for the GAA, says Kennelly

“Bigger drain” of players returning from the AFL to Ireland, says international recruiter Tadhg Kennelly.

Kennelly: was involved with the Australian coaching staff for the recent International Rules series.
Kennelly: was involved with the Australian coaching staff for the recent International Rules series.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

GAELIC FOOTBALL IS reaping the benefits of its players playing professionally, according to Tadhg Kennelly.

The former Sydney Swans star landed in Ireland on Thursday, and at the weekend ran the AFL’s third international recruitment camp in DCU.

Kennelly said: “When you go into a professional environment, you understand that this professionalism needs to be part of you when you go back to play as a Gaelic footballer.

“You’ve had Colm Begley come back, Ciaran Kilkenny, Brendan Murphy, Michael Quinn every one of them playing intercounty football. Niall McKeever’s back for Antrim this year.

All these boys are going to better the game of Gaelic football because they’ve spent two or three years as professional athletes, and they’ll help their fellow inter-county players go through the process of what they should be doing.

Mayo’s minor winning captain Stephen Coen and Westmeath’s Israel Ilunga tried out along with Evan O’Carroll, Ciaran O’Hanlon and Conor McKenna, all of whom shone throughout the All-Ireland minor championship this year.

“What we’ve got here is 22 of the best 18-year-olds in the country on trial,” Kennelly said.

“There’s seven AFL clubs who have flown recruiters over and they’re going to get a look at the lads over the next two days and basically decide from there whether they’re going to invite them over, do some more testing, and perhaps do what they did with Daniel Flynn.”

Flynn, who broke onto the Kildare senior panel last year, was scouted through Kennelly’s two-day camp and was recently drafted by Port Adelaide.

The Johnstownbridge man was among the top 20-metre sprinters of all time when tested at an AFL combine alongside the best 18-year-old Australians in October.

People in Ireland seem to think there’s a big drain over Irish players going over to Australia. Realistically, there’s a bigger drain of them coming back. That’s what people in Ireland need to understand, it’s a very hard thing to do.”


Daniel Flynn with Kennelly and Ken Hinckley at Port Adelaide (Image: Port Adelaide FC)

In last year’s Championship 17 players with AFL experience were on inter-county panels with ten scoring a combined total of 1-39. In the last five years, five All-Stars have been awarded to former AFL players.

“Realistically you’re never going to get more than one, max two players from Ireland. Two years ago we had none, this year we had a couple of lads picked up.

It’s not a process where the GAA is going to lose 20 players.

There were 3 Irishmen signed as International rookies recently. Port Adelaide tied down Flynn while Carlton signed Louth youngster Ciaran Byrne and Cork’s Ciaran Sheehan.

AFL Premiership runners-up Freemantle can hold onto another Kildare star, Sean Hurley until 16 December, after which they must decide whether or not to offer him a contract.

Kennelly’s thoughts will be closer to home for the next week though as his club Listowel Emmets line out in the North Kerry Championship final next Sunday.

The only man with an AFL Premiership and All-Ireland senior championship medal is aiming to help the club to their 14th title.

“I’m home for the next 10 days or so, and the club are out in the Championship final on Sunday, we’ll see how it goes.”

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