Although the departures of 30-somethings Noel O’Leary, Graham Canty, Paudie Kissane, Alan Quirke and Pearse O’Neill were expected, 22-year-old Sheehan’s decision to go to Australia has come as a shock in Cork GAA circles, despite a flirtation with the AFL earlier in his career.
“It’s a great opportunity that I didn’t want to turn down,” Sheehan told thescore.ie, adding: “I thought a lot about it and didn’t take the decision lightly.
“Leaving home is very tough and not playing for Cork or Éire Óg is a difficult thing to take. But this is something I wanted to do so I’m going to go for it.”
Sheehan lined out last weekend with his club, Éire Óg, in the Cork IHC and was linked with a possible dual role for Cork in next year’s championship along with fellow footballer Aidan Walsh, who featured on the Kanturk side which beat Éire Óg on Sunday.
Sheehan has played Australian Rules before — in 2009 he linked up with Carlton for a trial but returned home, winning an All-Ireland senior football medal the following year. In 2011 he tore a cruciate ligament against Kerry in the Munster championship but made a full recovery: his last game for Cork was the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat against Dublin in August.
The stylish attacker made a strong impression in the recent Compromise Rules clash with Australia, which ended as a one-sided rout in favour of Ireland, and has secured a two-year full professional contract with Carlton, which is a significant improvement on the rookie contract usually awarded to Irish players.
Carlton have strong Irish links, with Zach Tuohy of Laois currently starring for them, and former Young Hurler of the Year Setanta Ó hAilpín of Cork enjoyed several seasons with the Blues; another Corkman, Michael Shields, also spent some time on trial with Carlton.
Meanwhile, Daniel Flynn has explained the opportunity to be a full-time sportsperson is what convinced him to accept the challenge of becoming the first GAA recruit for up-and-coming AFL outfit, Port Adelaide.
Flynn was one of a number of youngsters introduced by Kieran McGeeney to the Kildare senior team this year, confirming the potential he had shown as an All-Ireland winner with St Mary’s of Edenderry by playing at half-back, midfield, half-forward and full-forward, despite only being 19.
He also played a key role as Kildare won the Leinster U21 title. Flynn signed a two-year contract with the Power last month and having just turned 20, will be a huge loss toKildare and new boss, Jason Ryan.
The Johnstownbridge man — and clubmate of former Collingwood player, Paul Cribbin — loved wearing club and county colours but once Port coaching director, Alan Richardson got in touch, this was an avenue he wanted to pursue.
“To train and play as a professional athlete, really: that was the main thing,” said Flynn after being unveiled by the club yesterday, ahead of pre-season training. “When the opportunity came along, I was always going to take it. But it was hard to leave home as well.”
Flynn, who helped his club win the county intermediate football title just four days after signing his two-year contract Down Under, has played only one game of Aussie Rules, against the Australian Institute of Sport reserves.
He attended Tadhg Kennelly’s Irish camp before going on trial with the Power and then attending the AFL draft combine.
Meanwhile, Johnstownbridge and Kildare colleague, Sean Hurley departs for Australia to undergo a trial with an as-yet-unnamed AFL club in less than two weeks.
Hurley made his senior championship debut two years ago against Dublin but became a regular this year. Like Flynn, he was a member of this year’s U21 team also. Hurley made a big impression in last year’s AFL draft combine and with Kennelly extolling his virtues, hopes to secure a contract which will enable him to join his good friend on the adventure of a lifetime.