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'We’re really happy to have the Irish girls. They just play sport how it’s meant to be played'

Aisling McCarthy and Niamh and Grace Kelly starred for West Coast Eagles in their big win yesterday.

Niamh Kelly celebrating.
Niamh Kelly celebrating.
Image: West Coast Eagles.

WEST COAST EAGLES’ Irish trio of Aisling McCarthy and Niamh and Grace Kelly came in for high praise from their head coach after their big win in Round Seven.

West Coast wrote their own piece of Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] history yesterday with their biggest win to date against the Geelong Cats.

Tipperary star McCarthy and Mayo’s Kelly sisters were all named best on the ground in the comprehensive 8.5 (53) to 2.2 (14) win at Lathlain Park. McCarthy and Niamh Kelly were industrious and impressed in midfield, the latter chipping in with two goals, while the older of the sisters, Grace, also kicked a pair of stunning efforts and was a key player in the forward line.

And coach Daniel Pratt was more than pleased with the efforts of his Irish contingent afterwards — the Kellys enjoying their second season with the side, having played huge roles in their sole win in 2020, and their other to date in 2021.

McCarthy, likewise, has made immediate impact since her historic switch from Western Bulldogs last year, overcoming a knee injury sustained in Round Four to bounce back better than ever.

“She’s so tough,” Pratt said of McCarthy. “The injury looked really severe and it could’ve been as well, she’s been able to come back and perform.

“Along with ‘Swanny’ (Emma Swanson) she was probably our best player today, but there were so many other leaders that played well. We’re really happy to have the Irish girls, they impacted the game today again.”

Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 09.37.55 McCarthy (front, centre) and Grace Kelly (back, third from right) enjoy the team's celebrations. Source: West Coast Eagles.

“They just play sport how it’s meant to be played, so they just go and enjoy themselves and take risks,” he continued.

“Some of the kicks they do, where I’ve come from with the men is like, that’s a risky place to kick it, but they take it on and if it comes off we’re looking dangerous, and if it doesn’t our backs were able to win it back for us today, so I’m happy for the girls to keep taking the game on.”

McCarthy — enjoying her first win with her new side having been sidelined for the recent victory over Gold Coast — hit the mark with an incredible 19 disposals and three tackles.

On top of the Kelly sisters’ two goals each, the Moy Davitts pair combined for 30 disposals, though there was concern when Grace came off injured. 

Pratt allayed those fears, however, confirming that it was groin tightness and that she should be available for selection against Richmond this weekend.

“It’s a no-risk policy with Grace, we took a couple of the other girls off as well. We’ve got a six-day break then we’ve got to travel,” he said.

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The group came in for more praise in the club’s ‘Five things we learned this weekend’ post. Point number one reads:

“The club’s Irish contingent have been outstanding this season and again set the bar high in this game. Aisling McCarthy has led the way for contested possessions through the year, but the pace and competitive streak of the Kelly sisters has also shone through. Niamh and Grace both kicked two goals, with Niamh’s lightning speed and dare causing all sorts of issues for the Cats defence.”

The West Coast trio were among nine Irish players lining out through the weekend. The evergreen Cora Staunton kicked three goals in an important Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants win on Saturday, while All-Ireland winning Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee helped Melbourne to victory. Mayo’s Aileen Gilroy was also in action on Saturday, influential as always as North Melbourne beat the Bulldogs.

Both Goldrick and Gilroy popped up with hard-hitting challenges in their respective encounters:

On Sunday, Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan continued her scintillating form, bagging two goals for Collingwood but the Pies fell to their first defeat of the season to Orla O’Dwyer’s Brisbane Lions. 

Injuries keep Sarah Rowe (Collingwood), Bríd Stack (GWS Giants) and Áine Tighe (Fremantle) sidelined, while Ailish Considine (Adelaide) and Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne) didn’t feature this weekend.

14 Irish players are involved in the 2021 season, with seven counties represented across eight clubs.

Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 09.29.02 The ladder currently, the top six qualify for finals. Source: AFLW.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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