Aussie clubs hovering over Irish International Rules starlet

AT LEAST one of the Irish players heading down under for the International Rules series will be playing Australian Rules professionally within months, according to the Australian media.

Reports yesterday in Australia stated that the player — part of agent Ricky Nixon’s Irish recruitment programme — is being looked at by Richmond, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda.

Nixon said yesterday that most of the players he’d been looking at were minors.

“We are not looking at senior Gaelic players because they are too old to convert into AFL players because you need to be taught how to kick a drop punt when you are 16 or 18 at the latest,” said Nixon.

Nixon held a training camp here in August at which the Tigers, Bulldogs and Kangaroos were joined by Geelong and Brisbane in considering the Irish talent, but he said Geelong and the Lions had since decided against recruiting. St Kilda chief executive Archie Fraser said yesterday the club was looking at the Irish representative in Nixon’s programme but was unsure of his desire to come to Australia.

The Saints will certainly consider another player, Antrim’s Niall McKeever, who will spend a week with St Kilda next month.

McKeever has interested at least one other AFL club and Fraser said his club were keen on McKeever specifically because Antrim were less likely than other counties to enjoy All-Ireland success.

“There is a slightly different opportunity for the kids who are from the south of Ireland, as opposed to the lure of kids from up north, who maybe have less of a chance historically of securing a chance of an All-Ireland final,” Fraser said.

The first International Rules Test will be played on October 24 at Subiaco, followed by the second Test on October 31 at the MCG.

Nixon said the Australian team, which would be much younger than the Irish outfit, could get a “rude shock” compared to the 2006 series, which Australia won comfortably.

“The two games (AFL and Gaelic football) have come so close to the way they’re played now, it’s not funny,” Nixon said.

“Watching Gaelic games over the last few months, the style of play is very similar to AFL with guys running from the back line and hitting up a forward and getting it back and scoring. It is very similar to the style of play we use now.”

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