By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Colin O’Riordan will make his AFL debut on Sunday when he lines out for Sydney Swans against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
O’Riordan will become just the third former GAA player to appear for the Bloods at the highest level, following in the footsteps of premiership winner Tadhg Kennelly and Kennelly’s former All-Ireland-winning Kerry teammate Tommy Walsh.
The 22-year-old said it was a dream come true.
“It was all a bit surreal” said O’Riordan. “I wasn’t expecting it one bit.
"When you walk in and the coaches are there and the players are there, it’s a real special moment (to be named). I came out here a couple of years ago and all I wanted to do was play AFL.
“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just focussing on getting through training this week and hopefully everything will come together.
He credited Kennelly with playing a major role in his AFL journey, having first approached him as part of the AFL’s international development team. Now he is the Swans’ development coach and has been working with O’Riordan to develop his game.
“Since he’s come to the club this year, Tadhg has helped me no end. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would be possible. He started off my journey three years ago now when he asked me to come over. I’ll be forever grateful to Tadhg for the opportunity he gave me.
“I had a few things to work on in my first two years and I just wanted to come out and play consistent football. I think throughout the year in the 2s I’ve been playing consistent football and just waiting for my opportunity. I’m so excited.”
O’Riordan has been earning rave reviews this season for the reserves in the NEAFL, averaging almost 29 possessions per game.
Last weekend, the former Tipperary star, who won an All-Ireland minor title with the Premier County as a 16-year-old, accumulated an astonishing 39 touches, adding 12 marks and two goals as the Swans second team racked up their eighth win on the trot.
Head coach John Longmire has been hit with an injury epidemic that made O’Riordan’s call-up inevitable and insisted that O’Riordan would have been in contention even if everyone was available.
“It is great to have Colin into the team,” said Longmire. “He has been fantastic since he got to our club, he has great energy and is just a really great person.
This is O’Riordan’s third season in Sydney, after signing a two-year extension to his initial contract at the end of last term.
The Templemore man, who played locally with JK Brackens before switching codes, hit the ground running in Sydney, and was named on the NEAFL team of the year. A punctured lung brought his debut season to a premature end however and he struggled to follow up on that initial impression.
An injury-free pre-season has helped him reach a new level however and it is a run of form he will hope to continue on the bigger stage.