Laois star Meredith snared by AFL Lions

LAOIS footballer Conor Meredith has become the latest Irish youngster to try his hand at the AFL after arriving in Brisbane on Tuesday to begin a two-week trial with the Lions at the famous Gabba grounds.

The AFL club were Grand Final champions between 2001 and 2003, and have been one of the most enthusiastic talent spotters in Ireland. Another Laoisman, Colm Begley, is already an established star while Mayo’s Pierce Hanley is on the rookie roster.

Meredith flew in to the Gold Coast city on Tuesday evening and the club wasted little time in commencing his Aussie Rules education, including the 18-year-old in a light training session with the rest of the squad the following morning.

Brisbane’s interest in the Laois forward was signalled as long ago as last August, just weeks after the O’Dempseys player scored a hat-trick of goals against Carlow in the Leinster minor final at Croke Park.

However, it was at Dublin City University, where Meredith is on a football scholarship, that Brisbane football manager Graeme Allan first spotted the player’s potential.

“He is similar to Colm Begley and Pierce Hanley, the kind of running player we feel adapts well to our game,” Allan said. “He is out here for a couple of weeks to have a look at our set-up and so we can have a look at him.”

Meredith is likely to see both his fellow countrymen in action during his trial period. Begley and Hanley are both on the comeback trail after injury and are due to appear for the reserves in the next two weeks.

Begley, who played in an astonishing 19 games in what was his rookie year last season, has missed 10 weeks with a quad injury but Brisbane coach Leigh Matthews is confident he will be pushing for a starting spot again soon.

“We think Colm adds something to our group and whether he is in our best 22 depends on him and how the other defenders play,” he said.

Hanley has been out for six weeks with a hamstring injury but is expected to be fit again this week.

Meredith will not be the only Irish youngster to try out for an AFL club this year with Aussie Rules agents Gerard Sholley and Ricky Nixon conducting trials throughout the country.

Dublin’s Carl Dias, a minor with the county last year, is also due to fly out to Australia next month for a four-week trial with the Adelaide Crows. Brisbane have also been contemplating the case of Down’s Paul McComiskey while the Sydney Swans have been linked with Tyrone’s Kyle Coney and Cork’s Ciarán Sheehan.

No county has proved as bountiful to the scouts as Laois. Aside from Begley and Meredith, Brisbane have also had Brendan Quigley on their books. The Timahoe man eventually returned home because of homesickness and Carlton have also been linked with Zach Tuohy.

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