GAA warning from AFL scout

A HIGH-PROFILE official at a top Australian Rules club has warned the recruitment drive for Gaelic footballers is set to intensify.

Derek Hine, recruiting manager at Melbourne outfit Collingwood, has stressed that more and more clubs are turning their attention to Ireland in an effort to find young talent.

“There certainly will be some challenges with the two new (Premiership) teams (to be based in West Sydney and the Gold Coast, near Brisbane), and that’s why we must work so hard in Sydney and so hard in Ireland,” Hine told Collingwood’s Magpie Radio.

“The process of rejuvenating our list over the last three years is going to hold us in really good stead when the Gold Coast and the second Sydney team come in.”

Collingwood’s Irish experiment has proven a massive success with the development of former Down star Martin Clarke, who won an All-Ireland minor medal in 2005.

He made his Premiership debut in June 2007 after only signing for the club in October 2006. Clarke has played 45 games for Collingwood, and the Kilkeel man, although figuring in defence, kicked a goal in his club’s massive 126 to 60 win over Melbourne yesterday which marked their third Premiership success on the trot, before a 61,287 crowd at the MCG.

Clarke was joined at Collingwood last year by fellow Irishman Kevin Dyas. And although the Armagh man has yet to make his Premiership debut, that personal landmark should not be too far away, as he has turned in a string of impressive performances in the VFL (Victoria Football League).

Understandably, the Collingwood recruiting manager has been hugely impressed by the remarkably seamless transition made by Clarke from Gaelic football to Aussie Rules.

“To be able to go to Ireland and see Marty as a 16-year-old running around in Belfast, and then to see him running in front of 75,000 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney less than two-years later is something special,” he remarked.

The Irish connection at the Melbourne club has been additionally strengthened, at least for the time being, with 17-year-old Kildare lad Paul Cribbin currently on a trial with the Pies. “Paul Cribbin is only a 16-year-old. He can play a similar role to (Tadgh) Kennelly I would think. He has got good speed and all of the traits to play in the AFL,” he said.

“He has been extremely promising with his testing,” he added.

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