Teen prodigy Conor Nash has admitted that turning his back on Meath GAA and Leinster rugby to forge an Aussie Rules career was a ‘massive call’ for him.
Nash’s last game of Gaelic football came at the weekend when he powered Simonstown Gaels to a maiden Meath SFC title success.
Meath legend Trevor Giles said recently that Nash is a GAA superstar in waiting while Leinster rugby wanted to sign him up to their academy.
That would have meant studying at UCD for the 18-year-old who completed his Leaving Cert this year and a potential professional career on his doorstep. But the sky-scraping midfielder passed it all up for the opportunity to make his name in Australia with Hawthorn who won a three-in-a-row of AFL titles between 2013 and 2015.
“It was a massive call for me,” admitted Nash. “It was probably back in February that I was offered the deal by Hawthorn. I went out and then came back and was given a lot of time to make a decision.
“Rugby was a massive opportunity for me and if I’d stayed, I would be playing rugby, hopefully with Leinster up in UCD.
“The rugby boys, the Leinster lads, they were very sound and said, ‘look, if you do come back then you’re certainly not off the books’.”
Hawthorn have been tracking Nash for three years and hope that living with Derry’s Conor Glass, another recruit from GAA, will stave off any homesickness. Nash has been fine tuning his AFL skills for months with the help of Longford star and ex-Essendon player Michael Quinn. He’s also received advice from former Aussie Rules players Tadhg Kennelly and Tommy Walsh from Kerry. Meath great Colm O’Rourke is Nash’s club boss at Simonstown and said he’d ‘love to see’ the wonder kid tearing it up for Meath at Croke Park some day.
“Playing senior for Meath would certainly have been something I’d have liked to give a crack to,” said the former St Pat’s student. “It can’t happen now. It might happen in a couple of years, we’ll see how things pan out.
Nash struck two points in Sunday’s county decider.
But he flies out to Australia on November 15 and won’t be available for the club’s AIB Leinster championship clash with Rhode on Sunday week.
“It’s going to be a new experience, an opportunity to test myself,” he said. I think with the support network and the opportunities at Hawthorn, if I get stuck into training I know in my own head that I’ll be fine and that I’ll succeed.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved