Injuries allowing, Ó hAilpín has a tremendous opportunity in the coming season of joining Jim Stynes, Sean Wight and Tadhg Kennelly as the only Irish recruits to play 100 games in the AFL. As it stands, this quartet represents the only ones to have played 50 games, although Martin Clarke looks likely to join that select group as he stands on 46 appearances ahead of his comeback with Collingwood.
Ó hAilpín played 80 times and scored 67 goals for Carlton but is sure to be relied upon more heavily by Greater Western Sydney in what is certain to be a difficult introduction to the league for the new franchise. It is a challenge he is relishing.
“I was excited to get another opportunity, especially at a new club,” he said yesterday. “I was confident in getting picked up but I didn’t know who it was going to be. GWS really seemed keen so I was very happy. You don’t get many opportunities like this.”
The 28-year-old former young hurler of the year has had knee surgery during the off-season and was expecting to resume light jogging today, giving him plenty of time to be fit for the beginning of the 2012 campaign.
“To get this opportunity, I’ll be hell bent on making the most of it. I’ll be training as hard as I can in the pre-season and I’ll be ready to rock.
“I’m happy to play anywhere ‘Sheeds’ (head coach Kevin Sheedy) puts me. Up forward, in the ruck or down back, I don’t mind.”
Ó hAilpín was speaking while at the Giants’ family day in Blacktown and recalled his “vague memories” of an early childhood spent nearby before the family decamped to Ireland, a move that led to him and his brothers Seán Óg and Aisake playing for Cork at all levels.
“I suppose not many people know that I was born in Bankstown. I lived in Greenacre. They’re telling me it’s 10 or 15 minutes from here. I grew up here, headed to Ireland, then to Melbourne. Now I’ve done the full circle.”