AFLW

Six new Irish recruits for AFLW

Australia-born Tipperary GAA star Orla O’Dwyer has signed for the Brisbane Lions in AFLW.

Australia-born Tipperary GAA star Orla O’Dwyer has signed for the Brisbane Lions in AFLW.

Ailish Considine showed the massive part Irish women can play in the AFLW when she was instrumental in her Adelaide Crows team emerging triumphant in the Grand Final in April and several AFLW clubs have looked to Ireland to improve their squads for next season.

Tipperary dual star Orla O’Dwyer has joined Brisbane Lions. Galway star Mairead Seoighe has penned a deal with North Melbourne. Fremantle have signed Aine Tighe of Leitrim and Kate Flood of Louth while Mayo sisters Niamh and Grace Kelly have moved from the West coast of Ireland to the West Coast of Australia by joining West Coast Eagles.

All five Irish women who competed last season have had their contracts renewed so there are now 11 Irish women on AFLW lists.

It will be a return to Australia for Orla O’Dwyer who was born and spent some of her childhood here.

O’Dwyer, who is also Tipperary camogie captain told The Irish Echo: “I’m really excited about joining the Brisbane Lions. To now have the opportunity to play a new sport like AFLW in a new country is such an experience in itself. I know that I will have a lot to learn and adjust to but I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead and pushing myself and being involved in a professional setup.”

She is the Brisbane Lions first Irish signing, something she says makes her feel extremely privileged.

“It’s great that they have given me this amazing opportunity and all the staff, background team and players have been so welcoming and helpful which makes me feel more comfortable about the move in October.”

Other clubs were chasing O’Dwyer’s signature but she decided Brisbane was to be the club for her.

Ailish Considine made history in April when she became the first Irish woman to win an AFLW Premiership with the Adelaide Crows.

Ailish Considine made history in April when she became the first Irish woman to win an AFLW Premiership with the Adelaide Crows.

“Initially, I had a couple of interviews with AFLW clubs but Brisbane Lions just stood out. They had a great knowledge of my style of play with camogie and ladies football and a plan of how I would benefit the team.

“They have excellent players and I’m excited to meet them all and play with them. Also, they offered me a contract in a matter of hours after the interview which showed me that they knew what they were about, and I’m delighted with my decision. I know Brisbane has a large Irish population, and I am hoping they will get behind me.

“I was born in Australia and my parents lived there for a few years in the late 90s and some of their friends from that time are now living in Brisbane. I hope to catch up with a few when I get over.”

O’Dwyer has been inspired by the success of the other Irish players in the AFLW, particularly Cora Staunton.

“I watched with great interest a documentary about Cora Staunton, it documented her move to the AFLW. She has been a great role model for women’s sport in Ireland,” she said.

Staunton has suffered a setback in her bid to continue her stellar career. The 37-year-old broke her leg while playing in the AFL Sydney Premier Division Women’s competition for the UNSW Bulldogs.

Staunton was the first international player to be drafted into the AFLW in 2017, clearing a path for many Irish girls to follow. She has scored 11 goals in 14 games for the Giants. She had already been invited back by the Giants to play in her third AFLW season.

Cora was optimistic in a social media post that showed a picture of her laid up in a hospital bed, saying: “Just want to thank everyone for all the support (calls messages etc) and help. I will be forever grateful to all my @gwsgiants family & unswbulldogs for everything ye have done for me. Sport can be cruel sometimes but hopefully this is only another challenge for me.”

Giants AFLW head coach Alan McConnell told The Irish Echo: “It was a shocking injury that Cora suffered, but as always she’s taken it head on as another challenge.

“Our medical team has been working closely with Cora in recent days to ensure she has the best care available to be able to get her rehabilitation

under way. There’s been a huge amount of support sent Cora’s way and all of us at the Giants are very grateful for the love that’s been shown.”

As the first Irish import, Staunton is credited with inspiring other clubs to look to Ireland.

On this, Cora told The Irish Echo during the past season: “People talk about it being me [that inspired the Irish influx of players] and I’d say next year it will double or treble with four more teams coming into the competition. In part it’s to me but in bigger part it’s to the Giants and in even bigger part it’s probably to Al [McConnell, Giants AFLW head coach].

“I’ve been extremely, extremely lucky. I’ve played inter-county senior football for 24 years, since I was 13. I’ve won everything that there is to be won in the game. I’ve been lucky with injuries. I’ve been lucky that my body has let me keep playing.”

Ailish makes footy history with Adelaide Crows

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Asked to descibe the feeling of becoming the first Irish woman, and indeed the first non-Australian, to win an AFLW Premiership medal, Ailish Considine simply said: “unbelievable”.

“It doesn’t even feel like it’s real,” she told the Irish Echo after Sunday’s grand final win over Carlton.

In her first year with the Adelaide Crows, the Clare woman and her team stormed to a 63-18 final win at Adelaide Oval. Considine’s goal in the first quarter put Adelaide into a strong lead that they would not relinquish.

Five Irish women competed with AFLW clubs this year with Yvonne Bonner and Cora Staunton at Greater Western Sydney Giants, Sarah Rowe at Collingwood and Aisling McCarthy, who was nominated by her club Western Bulldogs for the Best First-Year Player Award in the AFLW Players Association Most Valuable Players Awards 2019, making up the Irish contingent.

In the competition’s third year, Considine became the first Irish import to win a Grand Final. Asked how it felt to have made such history, she said: “I probably didn’t overthink it but it obviously was mentioned. I saw it on media and stuff. It was in the back of the mind and I guess I just left it there.

“It’s an amazing achievement and I hope I won’t be the last because there’s so much talent back home.

“I think definitely a few more will make the trip out and give Australian Rules a go. It’s unbelievable but hopefully I’ll be the first of many.”

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The 25-year-old had much support from home and her family made the trip to support her on the big day.

“It’s absolutely surreal, the whole weekend was just an absolute whirlwind. My family flew in on Friday night. They were here for the weekend and for the game. It was just an absolutely huge weekend and to come out with the win was just an amazing feeling and it was amazing to have my family there and celebrate with them, for them to be part of it as well. The support from home has been brilliant. My phone has just been hopping.”

She marked the occasion of picking up her medal by doing a little jig for the crowd much like Tadhg Kennelly did when he was Ireland’s first AFL Premiership winner in 2005.

“The girls were like, ‘You have to do something when you get your medal. Make sure it’s something Irish being the first Irish woman to win one.’ I had to follow through, I guess. I didn’t do it very well but at least I did it. I held up my part of the deal.”

The game was straightforward for Adelaide who have been in unstoppable form with a one-point loss to Western Bulldogs in Round 1 their only defeat of the campaign: “We approached it like it was just any other game … concentrate on your own game and try and get a good result.

“We did the same thing yesterday and that’s probably why it went so well for us. In fairness to the girls, they’re a great bunch of girls and they didn’t let the week get to them, the build up or the big game or the big crowd. They’re a privilege to play with. Our coaches and staff really kept us level-headed for the week as well. We were fortunate enough to come out with the right result.”

AFLW clubs only renew contracts annually but Considine knows she would love to back for the next campaign after she returns home to play Gaelic football for her club and county in the summer: “I would love to be back playing here again. I’ll have to wait and see and hopefully I’ll be back next year.”

Magpies sign Mayo GAA star for AFLW

Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Sarah Rowe will play for the Magpies in the AFLW competition.

Mayo forward Sarah Rowe has signed a deal that will see her join Collingwood in the forthcoming AFLW season. 

The 23-year-old follows long term Mayo team mate Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney Giants) and Laura Corrigan-Duryea of Cavan who played with Melbourne Demons for the AFLW’s first two seasons before being delisted recently. 

Rowe has represented Republic of Ireland at soccer and has declared her intention to return to Mayo after her five months in Australia to help her county in their bid for the All-Ireland. 

Rowe travelled to Australia in April, meeting with several clubs before choosing the Magpies. 

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she told the Irish Echo. “I don’t know exactly what to expect. It’s a complete new challenge for me, a new sport, a lot to learn but really looking forward to that aspect of it as well and putting myself out of my comfort zone.

“Football is what I grew up doing so instinct tells me what to do next and I would be able to help people around me whereas now I’m going to need a lot of help off other girls on the team and going to the manager with a lot of questions and stuff. It’s going to be a different role for me completely. You want to try prove yourself in one way but you need to learn all the skills first. It’s just gonna take time.”

Sarah had never been to Australia before she also visited the clubs Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne. 

“Collingwood was the first club I saw. I was extremely impressed, I thought they were so professional with their presentation. They made me feel very much at home very quickly.”

Rowe and Mayo were defeated by Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland Ladies final. This campaign saw them exit to Galway at the quarter-final stage: 

“Hopefully I learn stuff that I can bring back to Mayo. It’s always been my dream to win an All-Ireland so I would never turn my back on that but it’s great that I get to do both. Going professional is hopefully going to stand to me big time. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s very appealing for Irish girls at the minute.”

Sarah herself has spoken about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sport in Ireland. She was encouraged by what she saw in Australia in this aspect: “The girls get as much of an opportunity as the boys to be in an environment where they can excel so I really liked that side of it. In Ireland at the minute it’s improving an awful lot, things are looking up but it’s still not there yet.”

Sarah will arrive in Australia ahead of pre-season training with Collingwood on November 1. 

Eighteen other Irish women have arrived in Melbourne to try their luck at the Australian game.