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Walsh bucks the trend as AFL clubs cool on the Irish

The St. Kilda defender is rising just as the number of Irish imports is falling, writes Martin Blake in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Image: Pat Scala via Sydney Morning Herald

THE AFL’S IRISH experiment, pioneered by the likes of Jim Stynes, Sean Wight and Tadhg Kennelly, is flagging.

There are just four Irish players on AFL senior lists this year, and one of those – St. Kilda’s Tommy Walsh – is yet to play a senior game. Two, Sydney’s Kennelly and Carlton’s Setanta Ó hAilpín, might be nearing the end of their careers, and Brisbane’s Pearce Hanley had just a few games last year. A further handful are on rookie lists, awaiting an opportunity.

Kennelly, the 2005 Sydney Premiership player, believes the league and the clubs have to work smarter because of the “go-home factor” that applies to the Irish. He believes there are clear reasons that clubs appear to have cooled on the notion of importing players from Ireland, and why the likes of Collingwood’s Marty Clarke went home.

“It costs the clubs a lot of money,” Kennelly said this week. “You’re paying for parents to come out, you’re flying over to scout and meet the parents. It’s difficult, because I’ve got no doubt the quality of players is there. It’s just the distance thing. The major part is that they settle into the actual country and the lifestyle, and then there’s the small thing of learning the game.”

Continue Martin Blake’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald here >

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