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AFL Legend Warns Clubs Off Irish Players Amid Potential Conor McKenna Return

AFL Legend Warns Clubs Off Irish Players Amid Potential Conor McKenna Return
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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Tyrone have been dealt a major blow in recent days, with reports emerging that Conor McKenna is set to make a return to Australia to play in the AFL.

The Eglish St Patrick's club man had previously spent five years at Essendon, opting to return permanently to Ireland in 2020 due to homesickness. He would go on to be part of the Tyrone panel that won the All-Ireland in 2021.

In saying that, there was a sense that he didn't quite have the impact many would have hoped for with the county. While he did play a role in winning the Sam Maguire, it will be a disappointment to see him step away from panel after a couple of years.

It has not yet been decided what club McKenna will sign for the in the AFL, with a number of clubs linked.

AFL legend makes statement about Irish players in the AFL


At 26-years old, Conor McKenna should still have plenty to offer to any interested teams. He was very impressive during his previous spell at Essendon and should now be entering his prime.

However, not all are convinced that a move for the Irishman would be wise.

Speaking on SEN Radio, former Collingwood player and coach Nathan Buckley said that clubs should be careful about signing Irish players as they can decide to leave the sport a few years down the line.


What I need to say about the Irish boys – and it’s not all of them and this is tarring them with the brush a little bit – but it’s a little bit like the international BBL [Big Bash League] guys, how long are you going to be here?.

Because they decide that they’re going to come over for a couple of years … and they do get homesick and then they want to get home because they can play a professional sport over there.

There is a little bit of picking and choosing that happens – it would be buyer beware for me. If Conor McKenna has been here and then gone home and then wants to come back out again, there’s a little bit of in and out that happens with the Irish boys...

Mark Keane … Marty Clarke went back but he was actually going through health issues at the time that he needed to get home for, so there are mitigating circumstances in all of these, so I’m not putting a broad brush across.

But obviously Jimmy Stynes, Sean Wight … this was a new life that they were coming out for, and they made their life in Australia.

I still think the world’s a bit smaller and there is a little bit of over and back and I’d want to ask those questions of anyone you were going to recruit from Ireland going forward.

This certainly seems like a harsh statement. While Irish players do opt to return home on occasion, many have had long and successful careers in the AFL. Of course, there is no guarantee that a player of any nationality will be in the league for a decade due to a number of possible factors.

Considering the interest in Conor McKenna that is already out there, it seems that teams won't be put off by his previous decision to return to Ireland.

SEE ALSO: Tipperary's Colin O'Riordan Forced To Retire From AFL

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