By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Derry teenager Anton Tohill will be hoping to succeed where his father Anthony failed by carving out a career in the AFL after being signed by Melbourne giants Collingwood.
Tohill Jnr, who is a towering figure at 6’6’’ tall despite being just 18, impressed scouts when in Australia for the Draft Combine last week.
He has been signed on a two-year contract by the Pies, who reached this year’s Grand Final, which they lost narrowly to West Coast Eagles.
Tohill’s father was on Melbourne’s books before being cut without playing at senior level. That decision was described by fellow Irishman, the late Demons star Jim Stynes as “one of the biggest mistakes ever.”
Anthony went on to become one of the best footballers of his generation, winning an All-Ireland with Derry in 1993, at the end of which he was named player of the year.
AFL Draft boss Kevin Sheahan said that Anton was “so natural with his ball drop, runs 2.95 for 20m and has a lovely running gait. He’s probably more a key position option than a ruckman.”
He is the second member of the Ulster Championship-winning U20 squad to have committed to the AFL with Callum Brown joining Greater Western Sydney.
Tohill’s cousin and fellow Swatragh man, Oisín McWilliams is also reported to have a number of suitors.
Mark Keane (Cork), Jordan Morrissey (Carlow) and Pierce Laverty (Down) all took part in the Draft Combine along with Tohill.
The spectre of homesickness looms large, however, as the news comes on the same day that Carlton confirmed what had long been rumoured, that former Galway and Louth players, Cillian McDaid and Ciarán Byrne had chosen to return home, having struggled to settle Down Under.
It is something Tohill has acknowledged.
“It's just like playing Aussie Rules, you have to deal with the shape of the ball and change in position, so you just have to deal being away from home” he said last recently.
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