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Fremantle sign Fermanagh footballer while Leinster prospect closes in on AFL move

Ultan Kelm is set to make the move to Western Australia and Fionn O’Hara is in talks with Hawthorn.

Fermanagh's Ultan Kelm.
Fermanagh's Ultan Kelm.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

AFL OUTFIT FREMANTLE Dockers have signed Fermanagh native Ultan Kelm as a rookie ahead of the 2022 season.

The Erne Gaels 21-year-old has been an exciting prospect for his county in recent years. However, he will now make the move to Western Australia after Fremantle confirmed his signing as a Category B rookie.

Kelm first impressed at the AFL combine in November 2019 at UCD. He was one of four due to travel to Melbourne last year alongside Mayo due Oisin Mullin and Frank Irwin, as well as Clare’s Cillian Rouine.

That trip was cancelled due to Covid. Nevertheless, The42 understands several clubs continued to monitor the Ulster University student who had been working on his Australian Rules skills in the meantime.

Fremantle Head of Player Personnel David Walls told the club’s website that Kelm was highly motivated to play sport professionally in the AFL.

“Ultan’s been involved in the AFL Combines in Ireland and he’s interviewed extremely well. He’s desperate for an opportunity, he’s professional and he’s a really good athlete who plays with a lot of confidence and rebounds off half back,” Walls said.

“What’s impressed us most is how proactive he’s been with following up with information, watching games and his understanding of the game,” he continued.

“We’ve got all of his athletic data, which is off the charts, and he’s provided us with plenty of footage of him practicing and kicking.”

He also worked closely with ex-Collingwood and Down star Marty Clarke to hone his skills. 

“He’s been using an AFL footy for the last couple of years and practicing his skills,” said Walls. “He’s still got a long way to go but he’s made some great gains in the last two years and is incredibly motivated.

“He’s worked with Martin Clarke in Ireland, who has assisted us in this process as well with information and training him. It’s been mixed historically with players from Ireland, but it could take a couple of years before we could expect to see him playing at AFL level.”

Kelm will be the first player from Fermanagh to make the move in the men’s code. Former Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan played two AFLW games for Carlton in 2020.

14 Irish players were contracted to an AFL club in 2021. Kerry native Stefan Okunbor has since left Geelong while Sligoman Luke Towey is also set to depart Gold Coast Suns.

Elsewhere, The42 understands Hawthorn are progressing in discussions with Leinster rugby prospect Fionn O’Hara and a deal is now likely.

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The Melbourne-based club currently have one Irishman on their list in Meath’s Conor Nash. Conor Glass and Ciaran Kilkenny have also previously spent time with the Hawks.

Like Nash, O’Hara is a talented Gaelic footballer and rugby player having represented Westmeath at minor and Ireland at U18.

Hawthorn are one of a few who operate away from the conventional route of the AFL combine and rely on their own network of scouts instead. O’Hara has been in contact with the club for several years and visited in January, 2020.

The AFL Trade Period finished on Wednesday and clubs will now begin to finalise lists for the 2022 season with the draft and pre-season start date scheduled for late November.

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Maurice Brosnan

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