Collingwood’s Caolan Mooney says he’s against the AFL’s proposed move to send an indigenous all-star team to Ireland for the International Rules series later this year as he believes the Irish team will want to face the best possible side the AFL has to offer.
“The indigenous players have a really special talent,” Mooney told the Irish Echo.
“There’s no doubt that a lot of the best players in the league are indigenous. But I think if Ireland is playing in the series they’ll want to play against the best possible talent in Australia, not just the indigenous players.”
Ireland face Australia in Breffni Park, Cavan, on October 19, with the final test in Croke Park on October 26. Regardless of what squad Australia sends to Ireland, Mooney said he’d give anything to get the chance to follow in his fellow AFL convert’s footsteps and represent his country.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’d absolutely love to play in it. It’s such a huge honour and the only chance you get to play for your country in AFL or Gaelic football.”
With the way things are going at Collingwood, the International Rules series could be the only chance the Down man gets to play alongside his fellow county man Marty Clarke, pending their selection. The 20-year-old has always talked of how Clarke has helped his transition to the oval ball game and how much he relished the prospect of getting to line up alongside him.
However, despite his dream of the Down duo regularly pulling on the Pies jumper together, the Irish pair have only ever been on the field at the same time for a total of approximately eight minutes. That was in round 21 last year when the Pies faced North Melbourne.
An ankle injury that finished Mooney’s season also eliminated the possibility of the Down men finishing a game together. Even in Mooney’s debut in round 14 last year, his maiden season with the club, he went on as a sub for Clarke. In round seven this season against Fremantle (Mooney’s first senior game for the season), the trend continued with Mooney going on for Clarke as a sub when the former Gaelic footballer injured his hamstring.
“We were really looking forward to playing together, but I think fate just doesn’t want it to happen. Even in my debut game, I came on as a sub for Marty, which wasn’t great for him. So yes, we do wonder if we’re ever going to get a full game together.”
Mooney’s first game in 2013 came after a five-goal haul for the Collingwood reserves side and ensured his place on the side as a sub. A calf injury weeks prior to that had interrupted his VFL form and consequently postponed the possibility of a senior breakthrough.
Despite usually having limited time to prove himself in the role of substitute, the confident Down-man insisted that such duties provide enough of a platform to impress, if you make the most of your opportunities.
“From a timing point of view it’s hard, but as soon as you get out there you just have to use your time as best you can. You have to pull your weight and if you do well enough, then you can push for a regular spot,” he said.
Mooney is out of contract at the end of the season.
“My manager deals with all that stuff in the background. I just have to concentrate on playing football. From what I know the club’s fairly happy with me. It’s hard to even think past Collingwood this early in my career. They brought me out here and taught me everything I know.”
:: ‘Chef of the house’
Outside of the football club Mooney has settled in Melbourne. His girlfriend Adair has been in Australia for the past five months.
“It’s good having her out here. It means I don’t have to worry about what she’s up to at home,” Mooney laughs.
“She’s on a year out at the moment, but she’d like to study physio next year. I’ll have to try and get her into a university here, or else she’ll have to go home.”
Mooney is not the only happily settled Down man at the Pies right now. He said Martin Clarke is a different man to the one who would have arrived in Melbourne for the first leg of his AFL adventure.
“He’s got a serious mature head on him these days. He’s very settled and happy now his girlfriend is here. They even have a puppy,” Mooney quips.
While the AFL convert has a puppy to look after, his other responsibilities have definitely increased since his first season in Melbourne.
“Last year I was living in a club house with two other players and everything was done for us. The club did our shopping for us and dropped it around. This is the first time I’ve had to do that stuff for myself,” he said.
Despite the initial shock, Mooney appears to have adapted reasonably well to his new domesticated life, describing himself as “the chef of the house”.
You’d almost believe him until you ask about his specialties. After listing the perfectly respectable dishes of shepherd’s pie and chicken stir-fry, he admitted that just sometimes, he resorts to tinned soup.
It looks like the domestic life may not be progressing quite as well as the football side of things. But there’s no problem with the latter.