Ó hAilpín banned over training fight

SETANTA Ó hAilpín’s training-ground fight yesterday with Carlton team-mate Cameron Cloke has led to the former Young Hurler of the Year being suspended indefinitely by his club — but the punishment may not end there.

When prompted by reporters as to whether the incident would see the club cancelling Ó hAilpín’s contract, Ratten said: “We’ll have to sit down and talk about all the issues.

“Reflecting on what has happened, it’s not part of our game. We’ll sit down with Setanta and work through that.

“I think in practice matches, you go through history and training in general, there’s all the argy-bargy and things like that but that is not part of our game.”

Leaving aside the fact that Irish spectators who have seen the behaviour of some Australian players in the International Rules series may blink at Ratten’s suggestion about what is and isn’t part of their game, there’s a wider issue here.

Sources suggested yesterday that Ó hAilpín is more likely be heavily fined than sacked, but it’s the most recent blow to Aussie Rules recruiters aiming to convince young Irish players that life is sweet in the AFL.

Tadhg Kennelly recently returned to Ireland from a successful career with Sydney Swans, and while the Kerryman has always been open about his desire to win an All-Ireland senior football medal, there were other factors at work. It was clear the physical toll taken on his body by a decade of professional sport was one of the main factors in his decision to walk away from a AU$250,000 (€131,000) salary.

Kennelly is not the only high-profile Kerry footballer to turn his back on life down under recently. Tommy Walsh, Young Footballer of the Year last season, recently ended speculation about his future by saying he was too old, at 20, to master Australian Rules with St Kilda.

As he waved goodbye to the AFL, Walsh name-checked Tyrone starlet Kyle Coney as someone with a better chance of making it in Australia. However, Coney returned home to Ardboe for Christmas and chose not to go back to the Sydney Swans.

“I weighed up my options when I was in Australia,” said Coney last month. “Now I want to keep my options open and I want to be playing football for Ardboe and Tyrone.”

Setanta Ó hAilpín’s fellow Corkman Michael Shields came back from Carlton last July, but more recently Setanta’s brother Aisake returned home, and he played in a challenge for the Cork senior football team against CIT earlier this week.

Although AFL recruiters can point to the success of Down native Martin Clarke with Collingwood, the traffic going in the other direction suggests fears of a player drain have been overstated.

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