John Fogarty: What does future hold for the Irish 11 Down Under?

With just two rounds remaining in the regular season, the futures of the 11 Irish players signed to Australian Football League clubs come into greater focus
John Fogarty: What does future hold for the Irish 11 Down Under?

STAYING PUT: Kerry's Mark O'Connor in action for the Geelong Cats. Pic: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

With just two rounds remaining in the regular season, the futures of the 11 Irish players signed to Australian Football League clubs come into greater focus.

As of now, just four of them are confirmed to extend their time in Australia into 2023 – Callum M. Brown, James Madden, Conor Nash and Mark O’Connor. You would imagine there will be two or three more, including the outstanding Zach Tuohy, who along with Mark O’Connor, is chasing a first AFL medal with Geelong. That’s if Tuohy wants to prolong his fine career Down Under.

Between the 11, there have been 75 appearances this season but the Geelong pair have contributed 38 of them while Hawthorn’s Nash made another 20.

From a record high of 17 players two years ago, the anticipated decline of Irish involvement in the AFL following the pandemic has transpired, but just how many will return home for good this year?

Callum M. Brown (Limavady, Derry, Greater Western Sydney Giants)

Seven appearances this year for Brown who turned 22 yesterday, his Sydney side are currently third from bottom. Brown last week signed a new one-year contract having joined the outfit in 2018 on a rookie B contract. Scored two goals on his debut against Geelong last year and is getting more game-time towards the end of the season. 2022 AFL appearances: 7/21.

Darragh Joyce (Rower-Inistioge, Kilkenny, St Kilda) 

Only three matches for Joyce this season having played five in 2021, it’s five years since he made the switch to the Melbourne seaside club. He put pen to paper on a new one-year extension last October although his AFL future is very much up in the air right now. 2022 AFL appearances: 3/21.

James Madden (Ballyboden St Enda’s, Dublin, Brisbane Lions) 

It was confirmed last March that the dashing Madden would be continuing with the Queensland team for at least another season. The 22-year-old has only featured twice since, the last in July, owing to setbacks such as an ankle problem. 2022 AFL appearances: 2/21. 

Cian McBride (St Ultan’s, Meath, Essendon Bombers) 

The 21-year-old is yet to make his AFL bow and is now in a second year as a rookie in Essendon. He has continued to feature in VFL games but could now be weighing up his options and is bound to be on new Meath manager Colm O’Rourke’s radar. 2022 AFL appearances: 0/21.

Conor Nash (Simonstown Gaels, Meath, Hawthorn) 

Close to an ever-present in the Hawthorn defence this season, it’s been a coming-of-age campaign for the 24-year-old having only played eight times in 2021, even if Hawthorn’s performances have been middling. Signed a new two-year deal in June. 2022 AFL appearances: 20/21.

Barry O’Connor (St Martin’s, Wexford, Sydney Swans) 

Son of George and cousin of Jack, Joe and Rory, 24-year-old Barry’s one-year contract is up at the end of this season having joined The Swans as a rookie in 2019. 2022 AFL appearances: 0/21 

Mark O’Connor (Dingle, Kerry, Geelong) 

Jack O’Connor’s namesake was at the forefront of his mind in taking the Kerry position last year but the 25-year-old is a regular with the Cats and will be remaining in Australia until the end of the 2024 season at least. Like Tuohy, he has an excellent chance at claiming silverware as Geelong sit on top of the table. 2022 AFL appearances: 18/21.

Fionn O’Hara (St Loman’s, Westmeath, Hawthorn) 

The former Leinster rugby under-age out-half appears to be making good progress in the Victorian Football League having only joined the Melbourne outfit this past season. The 20-year-old has another year of his rookie deal remaining. 2022 AFL appearances: 0/21

Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens, Tipperary, Sydney Swans) 

An inspiration behind Tipperary’s historic Munster title in 2020, O’Riordan was handed a one-year extension at the end of last season but injuries have again impacted his progress and he has played in just five games. He will be hoping to break into the match-day set-up as the second-place Swans look to confirm their place in the finals series. 2022 AFL appearances: 5/21

Zach Tuohy (Portlaoise, Laois, Geelong)

Now in his 12th AFL season and his sixth with Geelong, Tuohy is a bona fide success story with over 200 appearances and has featured in all but one of his club’s fixtures this season. The 32-year-old has spoken about playing for his teams at home when he steps away from the game and his current contract expires at the end of this season. 2022 AFL appearances: 20/21.

Deividas Uosis (Dingle, Kerry, Brisbane Lions) 

The 22-year-old Lithuanian-born Uosis has yet to make his AFL debut and is in the final year of his two-year rookie deal. Kerry’s goalkeeper in their 2017 All-Ireland minor winning side but a defender in Australia, O’Connor will be keeping tabs on him in the coming months. 2022 AFL appearances: 0/21.

Cork should have got behind Carbery move

By the time this past weekend came around, the majority of counties had taken the decision to temporarily re-introduce water breaks. Dublin, Kilkenny, and Tyrone led the way and others such as Kerry and Tipperary followed.

Clare also allowed for water breaks but were clever enough to add that they could not be used tactically as had been the case during the previous iteration. “Bainisteoiri or other members of management do not have a role in these water breaks and any incursions onto the field, even when play has been halted for this reason, will be dealt with by the referee in accordance with Riail 7.2 (infractions)”.

As an alternative, the likes of Derry, Limerick, and Waterford allowed an additional water carrier.

Cork division Carbery had been a step ahead of everyone in allowing water breaks for their midweek games last week only to be informed by the Cork County Board that they had overstepped.

“There appears to be a misunderstanding that it was a local or perhaps even an individual decision not to facilitate same,” wrote county chief executive Kevin O’Donovan to clubs on Thursday.

“We, once more, point members to yesterday’s communication outlining current Association policy. It is disappointing if this is interpreted otherwise.”

That national policy didn’t prevent other counties from using their discretion and initiative and it was a real pity for Cork when one of its divisions had shown the way ahead for player welfare ahead of some intensely hot weather.

Fógra: For the ridiculously low price of €60, three-person teams can enter a golf classic in aid of the Crowley family at Berehaven Golf Club from September 15 to 17. In aid of the children of Beara’s 1997 Cork SFC-winning goalkeeper and Castletownbere man Pádraig, the event is one of a number of fundraisers.

For further details, visit www.bearagaa.ie

Counties must mind gap when recruiting

As if he didn’t have enough belief, the examples of Jack O’Connor and Liam Sheedy returning to roles over the last four seasons have given Davy Fitzgerald more confidence that he can provide silverware for Waterford in the next couple of years.

But if going back is no longer as ominous as it once was, the outside manager, with the exception of Diarmuid Healy and Michael Bond in Offaly, is not known for achieving All-Ireland glory.

Perhaps that is the next unwritten rule to be knocked but at least Waterford appointed a manager with the majority of the club championships still to be played. Between Liam Cahill going and Fitzgerald coming, there were 27 days. Not as breakneck as the five days between Colm Bonnar’s departure and Cahill taking over Tipperary but still nifty.

Prolonged appointment processes — listen up Mayo — rarely bode well. We’re now coming on 50 days since James Horan relinquished his role and while county officials are wary after Mayo mishandled previous management searches. the process shouldn’t be so deliberate as to procrastinate.

It’s 40 days since Mattie Kenny left Dublin while a full 26 days after Declan Bonner stepped away, Donegal closed nominations for their senior football management vacancy. There is being methodical and then there’s being slow.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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