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Rivals On The Field, The Irish Boys In The AFL Have Great Craic Off It

Rivals On The Field, The Irish Boys In The AFL Have Great Craic Off It
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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"I still can't understand anything he says," Jobe Watson quipped about Conor McKenna during the summer. Waston - an AFL veteran - and McKenna are Essendon teammates. McKenna lived with Watson for his first three months in Australia, it did little to aid Waston's understanding of the Tyrone man's words.

Three years Down Under has not diminished the thickness of McKenna's Tyrone accent. He is home following the end of the AFL season. A few weeks back in Eglish may have helped renew the strength of his accent - it was certainly on show at the Australian Embassy on Wednesday afternoon.

McKenna was in attendance at the Embassy for the launch of EirGrid's sponsorship of the International Rules series. He will be a key part of Ireland manager Joe Kernan's squad for the two-game series in November.


The 21-year-old is one of three Irish AFL players who are nailed on - bar injury - to be in Kernan's 23-man group for the games in Oz. Laois' Zach Tuohy and Mayo's Pearce Hanley will be the other two Australian-based Irish players. Trials are currently taking place to decide who will be the 20 other players in the squad.

Adapting to Aussie rules has not been an issue for McKenna - he's one of the hottest young prospects in the game right now. Earlier this month, Essendon handed him a shiny new four-year contract.

The main issue for McKenna: homesickness. That has been eased since his arrival in Australia by the proliferation of Irish players at clubs in the Melbourne area.

To relieve their mutual yearning for home - and perhaps to just have someone who understands what they are saying - the Irish boys regularly meet up; spend time at Corkman Ciaran Sheehan's place and maybe go for a few pints.


There's me, Ciaran Byrne, Ray Connellan, Darragh Joyce, Conor Nash and Conor Glass all in Melbourne. Then Mark O'Connor, he's just outside with Zach Tuohy in Geelong.

All us young lads hang about in Gussy Sheehan's, hang about every couple of weeks and just meet up for a few pints and a bit of feeding - so it's good.

My first year it was only Ciaran Byrne really and I met up with him every couple of weeks. When there's five or six of you, you'll always meet up. I'd probably meet up at least once a week with one of them. It's good to just meet up and talk Gaelic and watch Gaelic - it's good, like.

Pictured at the sponsorship announcement of EirGrid as team sponsor for the Ireland International Rules side that will travel to Australia over the two-test series in November is Team Manager, Joe Kernan and Squad Member, Conor Mckenna. EirGrid is a state-owned company that operates the national grid in Ireland. EirGrid’s task is to deliver a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity now, and in the future.

See Also: Joe Kernan Confirms Three AFL Players Will Be In Ireland International Rules Squad



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