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'I feel like I owe them a bit. Deep down I probably feel like I walked out on them but I know that's harsh'

AFL star Zach Tuohy is this week’s guest on Warriors.

Zach Tuohy of the Cats is tackled by Michael Gibbons of the Blues.
Zach Tuohy of the Cats is tackled by Michael Gibbons of the Blues.
Image: AAP/PA Images

ZACH TUOHY IS on the verge of making his 200th AFL appearance and he is the second-most capped Irishman in Australia, behind only the legendary Jim Stynes on the appearances list.

It’s an incredible achievement by Laois man Tuohy, who is into his 11th season in Australia and has gone down as one of the very best GAA converts to the sport.

Tuohy is our guest this week on a special episode of Warriors GAA podcast for The42 members. He is interviewed by ex-Cavan footballer and former GWS Giants coach Nicholas Walsh.

Tuohy discusses the difficulty in moving to the far side of the world and recalled the challenge of missing out on some big games for his club Portlaoise over the years.

“Leaving was hard. The idea of not giving AFL a crack never occurred to me because I was always desperate to be a professional sportsperson and this was just a perfect opportunity for that.

“But we won the Leinster club title in the first year I left – I still haven’t watched that. I still can’t watch the highlights of that Leinster final, I just can’t. Even worse still the Leinster finals we’ve lost by a point or two, or All-Ireland semi-finals we’ve lost by a point or two. 

“That’s when I found the guilt really sets in, I genuinely feel like I’ve let people down in those instances. Because we’ve fallen short by a point or two to the Dublin champions on a number of occasions and they’ve gone on to walk the All-Ireland that year.

“That’s happened a few times and while there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have made the loss even more significant, there’s a slight chance I could have made a difference. That thought is really, really uncomfortable. The most homesickness I’ve ever had is when we’ve won that Leinster and on those few occasions after that where we fell a couple of points short in big games. I hated it. 

“I feel like I owe them a bit. Deep down I probably feel like I walked out on them but I know that’s a bit harsh and I know they don’t feel that way. But when they lose by a point in a big game it’s hard not to feel like maybe you should have been there. But que sera, sera.” 

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At 30-years-old, Tuohy hopes he has a few more years left in him playing AFL but still holds aspirations of returning to line out with club and county in the future.

“Yeah I still do. I’ve always said I’d love to go back and play. I will definitely play with Portlaoise. And as long as my body lets me – it depends on how beaten up I am at the end of my career – I’d love to play with Laois.

“I’ve never played a senior championship game with Laois so I absolutely have aspirations to do that, but as you know this game is particularly gruelling and not many 35-year-olds – I hope that’s what I am when I finish – come out of it moving as well as they did 10 years prior. But as long as my body lets me I’d love to play for Laois.”

They also chat about Conor McKenna’s return to Tyrone, Pearce Hanley’s retirement and Tuohy’s advice for Irish youngsters trying to make it in the AFL.

To listen to the full interview and listen to a 21-episode back catalogue featuring the likes of Stevie McDonnell, Ronan Curran, Liam McHale, Ken McGrath, Johnny Doyle and Seanie McMahon, subscribe at members.the42.ie.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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