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Meath and Cork stars confirmed for AFLW debuts on Saturday

Vikki Wall and Erika O’Shea will both feature for North Melbourne.

vikki-wall-and-erika-oshea Erika O'Shea and Vikki Wall facing off in the 2021 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MEATH ALL-IRELAND WINNER Vikki Wall and Cork star Erika O’Shea will make their Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] debuts this Saturday.

The duo are among five new North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos faces to feature in their season opener against Gold Coast Suns on home soil at Blundstone Arena.

Wall, O’Shea and their fellow debutants found out during Tuesday night’s pre-training team meeting, with head coach Darren Crocker confirming the news through a card game:

The full North Melbourne team will be confirmed on Friday, though Wall and O’Shea’s — the youngest-ever Irish player to play in the AFLW at 20 — respective inclusions come as no major surprise. 

Both have made a big impact through pre-season, All-Star defender O’Shea an ‘instant sensation’ in her first pre-season appearance against Collingwood.

“Erika has great athleticism, a great combination of speed and endurance, and she’s actually quite good overhead,” Croker said afterwards

“I thought she saved us on a number of occasions, just being able to get a tackle or a hand in, just because of the way she can cover the ground.

“It was a very, very strong first-up performance, playing a totally different sport.”

He had similar kind words for Wall after she belatedly linked up with the group having helped Meath to back-to-back All-Ireland wins.

The 2021 Footballer of the Year was lively throughout her bow against Premiers Adelaide Crows, with Crocker noting: “Terrific start, to think that was her first game of Aussie Rules and Erika’s second game … it’s just so impressive the way they’ve gone about it.

“She’s (Wall) got really good speed and power and once she grasps playing with our shaped footy she’s going to be a really good, dangerous player for us up forward.”

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Meanwhile, Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan is named on the Collingwood interchange bench for tomorrow’s opener against Carlton. Sarah Rowe is absent due to a one-game suspension outstanding from last season.

Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne), Áine McDonagh (Hawthorn) and Grace Kelly (St Kilda) all miss out this weekend due to injury. 

“Sinéad Goldrick (knee) will be sidelined for the opening stage of the season, but is underway in her recovery and will look to be available for selection in one to three weeks,” a Melbourne club statement reads. 

“Áine is progressing well having returned to non-contact skills this week,” Hawthorn AFLW High Performance Manager Olivia Knowles noted on Galway star McDonagh, who sustained a rib injury in pre-season. “We anticipate that she will be able to return to full training next week.”

“Grace Kelly will likely miss the first two weeks of the season with a quad strain,” a St Kilda statement reads.

Several other Irish players could be handed AFLW debuts this weekend, with Orlagh Lally, Amy Mulholland (both Fremantle), Blaithin Mackin (Melbourne) and Megan Ryan (Essendon) also among the newbies.

There are 22 Irish players spread across 12 AFLW clubs, hailing from 12 different counties.

Irish players set for AFLW 7.0

  • Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)
  • Bríd Stack (GWS Giants / Cork)
  • Vikki Wall (North Melbourne / Meath)
  • Erika O’Shea (North Melbourne / Cork)
  • Aileen Gilroy (Hawthorn / Mayo)
  • Áine McDonagh (Hawthorn / Galway)
  • Joanne Doonan (Essendon / Fermanagh)
  • Megan Ryan (Essendon / Tipperary)
  • Clara Fitzpatrick (St Kilda / Down)
  • Grace Kelly (St Kilda / Mayo)
  • Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)
  • Niamh Kelly (Adelaide Crows / Mayo)
  • Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows / Clare)
  • Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Blaithin Mackin (Melbourne / Armagh)
  • Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)
  • Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)
  • Orlagh Lally (Fremantle / Meath)
  • Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim)
  • Amy Mulholland (Fremantle / Armagh)
  • Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)
  • Rachel Kearns (Geelong / Mayo).

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