WHILE Championship football can be the most unforgiving of sporting arenas — just ask Joe Kernan this morning — Australian Rules isn’t too far behind its northern hemisphere cousin.
In the harsh climate of the AFL, it is the ‘disposal’ that is the currency of choice for the critics — a statistical weapon which they like to sharpen before plunging into their victim or alternatively, one they spit-polish and present as the glimmering numerical evidence of just how positive a contribution their chosen hero has made.
This weekend, Ireland’s two leading lights Down Under simply couldn’t have endured a more contrasting time on that front. The disposal count — as the term used to describe the amount of times a player gets his hand on the ball in a match — was at the forefront of the gushing praise of Tadhg Kennelly’s superb performance for the Sydney Swans and the equally searing criticism of Setanta Ó hAilpín’s display for Carlton Blues.
The former was all action, racking up more disposals (34) than anyone else on the pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday night as the hosts downed North Melbourne 85-55 to consolidate their position in the top half of the ladder.
Kennelly was back to his commanding best, keeping the Kangaroos attack relatively quiet and helping to build his own side’s forward momentum from defence as the Swans bounced back from a galling defeat to then-bottom side Richmond last weekend.
The Swans stayed ahead of the Blues in the table after a chronic display overall by Carlton as they were overpowered by the Western Bulldogs at the Etihad Stadium yesterday, and a particularly abject showing from Ó hAilpín.
The Corkman has been on fire for much of the campaign but could only amass a paltry three disposals and he never looked like adding to his 26 goals for the campaign as his side were beaten 126-58.
Blues coach Brett Ratten didn’t mince his words about his tall forward, for whom nothing went right all afternoon in Melbourne.
“I think sometimes you can make your own luck a little bit early in games,” Ratten said. “I thought he was down today, there’s no doubt about it. We didn’t really have a great focal point down our end of the ground.”
Ó hAilpín has the chance to set the record straight next weekend when Kennelly and the Swans come to town for the only scheduled showdown between the exile stars this season.
Meanwhile Pearce Hanley enjoyed a much better time of it in his second game of the campaign for the Brisbane Lions. The Mayoman struggled in his first Premiership outing of the season in May but was much more involved at The Gabba on Saturday night with 17 disposals from the interchange bench. However Hanley couldn’t help the Lions avoid defeat to the league’s powerhouse, St Kilda.
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