Irish In The AFLW: The Peaks And Valleys Of Life In Oz

With 22 Irish women having signed to the AFLW to date over the six years, this weekend’s 2022 season kickoff renders the opportunity to reminisce on the highs and lows of the nation’s Aussie Rules adventures Down Under.

Irish In The AFLW: The Peaks And Valleys Of Life In Oz Irish In The AFLW: The Peaks And Valleys Of Life In Oz
Alanna Cunnane

Since the official AFLW’s inception in 2017 there have been over 20 Irish women to make the move halfway across the world with the intentions of pursuing glory in the cross-code sport.

While a handful missed out on eventually participating in the competitive games, there’s been a mixed bag of outcomes from overall triumphant success and friendships forged to horrific injury woes, but what remains consistent over the six years is that of a prerequisite of sensational entertainment.

Here’s the shared story highlights.

Paved The Way:

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The first to break ground and switch to the oval ball was Cavan native Laura Corrigan/Duryea. Donning the Melbourne jersey in the league’s inaugural year, the Jim Stynes number fellow’s backpacking trip in the late 2000s skyrocketed into a prolonged spell in Australia when a gaelic friend cajoled her into trying the sport.

 2016 saw the teacher and intercounty stalwart become signed as a free agent and the rest is history.

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Mayo Gone Global:

Mayo legend Cora Staunton made one GIANT leap for LGFA and AFLW crossover kind when she signed for Greater Western Sydney for the 2018 season.

The four time All Ireland title holder inflamed conversations of the potential for such moves to become normalised and possibly detrimental to Ireland’s gaelic games by managers and onlookers alike, despite the overlap in seasons remaining minimal.

The professional status looming and ever hard to turn down, the LGFA poster girl’s relocation inspired many others to look into the opportunity.

Including Maritime County teammates Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne) and Sarah Rowe (Collingwood).

Ex Housemates And Now Collingwood Teammates:

Rowe and companion DCU grad Aishling Sheridan of Cavan both continue to make a splash Down Under, reaching the semifinals of the competition last time out with Collingwood.

Having lived together during their college experience they know each other inside and out, ever aiding their communication on the field for one of the league’s best outfits.

Silverware Winning Duo:

Ailish Considine made history with Adelaide Crows in 2019 when she became the first Irish and non-Australian woman to win the AFLW Premiership.

Shortly behind her was Tipperary ‘s Orla O’Dwyer, who, in just 2021, helped the Brisbane Lions duplicate that achievement. Earning Irish Player of the Year for her efforts, she sets herself apart as a master of LGFA as she tasted victory with her home county at the 2017 and 2019 finals and also a dab hand at the Australian pastime.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDCsgFdV-7E

Wayward Woes:

Perhaps recency bias plays a part but one of the most brutal injuries that sidelined an Irish player in the AFLW unfolded with Cork’s Brid Stack in training camp with the GWS Giants.

Thankfully raring to go once again, the encounter is not limited to the 11-time All-Ireland winner, with other blows having impacted the likes of Leitrim’s Aine Tighe (Fremantle Dockers) and Dublin’s Sinead Goldrick (Melbourne) at some point or other, but both are also returning for the coming year.

 Other complexities have also impacted Irish players fielding, Yvonne Bonner (GWS Giants), Kate Flood (Fremantle Dockers), Mairead Seoighe (North Melbourne), Joanne Doonan (Carlton) and Katy Herron (Western Bulldogs) remaining homeward bound for a variety of reasons ranging from visa issues, personal reasons and Covid implications at different stages.

First Irish Woman To Transfer Team:

Originally transposing to Western Bulldogs, Aisling McCarthy completed the feat of acting as the first Irish woman and non-Australian to transfer clubs in the AWFL when she joined forces with West Coast Eagles in 2020.

Occurring during the opening days of the trade period, the Tipperary star made the move before her third stint where she was united with a pair of countrywomen.

Sister Act:

That very twosome consisted of Niamh and Grace Kelly, sisters and more Mayo expats who swapped the West Coast of Ireland for the West Coast Eagles.

One year between them, the Kelly siblings credit CrossCoders with transforming their expressions of interests in realities and have utilized the skills they have learned from Gaelic football as well as soccer in their Aussie Rules outings.

Antithesis To Blue For Aussie Rules:

Dublin trio Lauren Magee, Niamh McEvoy and previously Sinead Goldrick all overlapped at a point with Melbourne FC, just a few weeks after they had assisted Ireland’s capital city to their fourth  consecutive Brendan Martin cup in 2021.

Their competitive edge standing to them in Australia too, the group were integral to their side making the AFLW closing rounds last year despite Goldrick’s unfortunate injury.

Early Retirement:

Following that McEvoy went on to announce her retirement from Footy, although the 31-year-old still remains undecided as to her Jackeens future.

Similarly, Down’s Clara Fitzpatrick returned home too, 2021 her third and final year in Australian.

Visa ramifications put a halt to her second season with St Kilda’s, but her home Mourne County and club Bryansford were ecstatic to welcome her back with open arms.

Latest In:

Triple threat Rachel Kearns added the AFLW to her extensive repertoire of sports this year, sweeping Gaelic football, boxing and soccer.

Her rookie season fast approaching, the Geelong Cats will be anticipating big things from the 2019 Mayo All Star forward and WNL Galway United striker.

2022 Irish In The AFLW

The countdown is on until the contest commences at 8:15am tomorrow, with 14 Irish players on show for the 2022 display.

 Adelaide Crows

Ailish Considine

 

Brisbane Lions

Orla O’Dwyer

 

Collingwood

Aishling Sheridan

Sarah Rowe

 

Fremantle

Áine Tighe

 

Geelong Cats

Rachel Kearns

 

GWS Giants

Bríd Stack

Cora Staunton

 

Melbourne FC

Sinéad Goldrick

Lauren Magee

 

North Melbourne

Aileen Gilroy

West Coast Eagles

Aisling McCarthy

Grace Kelly

Niamh Kelly

With thanks to Georgia Ahern and Michael Currane (@aflw_ireland)

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