Conor McKenna has revealed that the GPA offered him assistance after he became the first player in the AFL to test positive for Covid-19.
The former Tyrone underage tyro found himself at the centre of a massive controversy in Australia with question marks over how - and when - he contracted the virus.
And the Essendon star, who returned for the 12 point victory over North Melbourne on the Gold Coast on Saturday night, admits that he still “doesn’t know what happened.”
He explained: “On the Friday the test came up a false positive, whatever that means, so I had to get retested again on Saturday and that came up positive. I then got retested again on Tuesday and that came up negative. I got bloods done and that came up that I maybe had it six weeks before that so there still is no real clarity on it. They are not sure if I had it ten weeks ago when I was in Ireland or three weeks ago but I was another ten days stuck in a room on my own. I felt 100% and that was the biggest shock as I was due to play my first game this year.”
He heaped praise on Essendon officials and the Irish community - at home and abroad - for their assistance during such a trying time.
“My club have been very supportive while I was in quarantine and I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “The Irish Embassy sent me a care package of Irish treats as did Taste Ireland. Even the GPA got in contact with me to see could they help me in anyway. It is unbelievable the support that you get from the Irish community on the other side of the world.”
McKenna played his first competitive game last weekend after being given the all clear to return but ironically broke a finger and is expected to miss a number of weeks.
Here's the clip of Luke McDonald covering his face in front of Conor McKenna today. pic.twitter.com/YIvPzw2jIG— Maurice Brosnan (@m_brosnan) July 11, 2020
It emerged yesterday that North Melbourne’s Luke McDonald apologised to McKenna for a Covid-19 taunt in the game.
"We've dealt with that internally, Luke's given Conor a call and from our perspective it (the taunt) wasn't necessary," Melbourne coach coach Rhyce Shaw said of the incident.
"It's a bad look and considering all the things that are going on around the world at the moment and even more specifically in Melbourne, we just don't accept that type of behaviour.”
McKenna admitted the chance to return to Ireland for ten weeks during the pandemic was welcome given his struggles with homesickness. “I got stuck into the training back home doing cycling and gym sessions in the house and I probably returned to Australia with better fitness than when I came home. Homesickness is not something that I really shy away from, and at the end of each season I make my decision whether to go back or not.”
Ironically the man who plies his trade in the AFL isn’t a fan of the GAA’s new forward mark which was introduced at the start of the season. “I don’t understand it, I don’t really like it (forward mark), it feels that it’s (GAA) trying to morph its way into AFL which I hope it doesn’t. I love the way the GAA game was when I played it. I like the mark for the kick out but I don’t like the forward mark. It could boil down to players just hoofing a high ball in and while that may be good for high catching I just don’t know why it’s coming into the game.”