Tyrone hope McKenna resists AFL lure

Tyrone minor manager Mickey Donnelly has given his blessing to star player Conor McKenna’s dream of a professional career in Aussie Rules football — but he still hopes the exciting teenager can be persuaded to commit to the Red Hands.

Tyrone hope McKenna resists AFL lure

McKenna has attracted interest from as many as half a dozen AFL clubs, and following outstanding displays during a training camp in London last week, has had talks with representatives from Essendon, West Coast Eagles, Western Bulldogs, Geelong and Collingwood.

“If he goes to Australia, we’ll be very disappointed to lose him, but he’ll go with our blessing. It’s a wonderful opportunity to give a lad to play professional sport, and obviously we can’t provide that for him,” said Donnelly.

The Tyrone boss feels the 18-year-old Eglish lad may yet decide to remain at home and continue to excel in the Gaelic football code with club and county.

“Conor’s not away yet. I have to stress that as well. Until we’re driving him down to Dublin Airport to catch the plane, we’ll do what we can to keep him.”

McKenna pledged that any move to Australia won’t be made until after Tyrone’s minors complete their championship campaign, a commitment that came as some relief to the manager.

“We have guarantees he’s not going until the minors are beaten, so the longer the better. Conor is a very talented lad and we’re delighted to have him, and he’s delighted to be here.”

Midfielder McKenna was the driving force behind Tyrone’s run to the All-Ireland final last year. And he’s central to Donnelly’s plans for another big push this summer.

“He has been a great servant in what he has done at minor level, but we would like to think that he has more to do,” said Donnelly, who predicts that if he stays at home, McKenna will graduate to the Tyrone seniors next season, linking with older brothers Ryan and Emmet.

“I’m thinking back to when Sean Cavanagh came out of minor, Stephen O’Neill and Hub (Kevin Hughes) and Brian McGuigan, they were fast-tracked into the senior set-up very, very quickly.”

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