Twenty-three year old Essendon star Conor McKenna has unexpectedly returned to Ireland just weeks before the 2020 AFL season kicks off.
There are mixed reports on McKenna's intentions in returning to Ireland. McKenna has spoken publicly about his battles with homesickness while living in Melbourne, where he moved in 2014. According to AFL.com.au, Essendon 'expect him [McKenna] to return in time to play in the Bombers' opening Marsh Community Series match against West Coast on February 27.' FoxFooty are reporting that McKenna is in Ireland 'indefinitely' but that the club is 'hopeful' he'll be back for preseason. Their 2020 season kicks off on March 21st against Fremantle.
Essendon released the following statement today:
Essendon defender Conor McKenna has returned to his homeland of Ireland due to homesickness and family-related reasons.
General manager of football Dan Richardson said the 23-year-old had the club’s full support to return to his native country.
“We have been in lengthy discussions with Conor over recent weeks and we are completely supportive of him returning home to be with his family at this time,” Richardson said.
“We remain in constant communication with both Conor and his family and we will continue to provide our support during this period.”
McKenna starred on the Tyrone team that won the 2012 minor All-Ireland. He joined the AFL in 2014 and made his Essendon debut in 2015. Last year, McKenna played in 22 games for Essendon.
McKenna spoke openly of his homesickness as recently as December:
"I still probably suffer a bit with homesickness. I've always been a home bird and the first couple of years were pretty tough, not really knowing if you want to go back at the end of the year and still kind of struggling to go back."
McKenna has established himself as a vital member of the Essendon team and is one of the best Irish players in the AFL.
Last week, Cathal McShane revealed he wouldn't be joining the Adelaide Crows despite having a trial with the club in January. McKenna would be an incredible addition to Mickey Harte's panel, though McKenna is contracted with Essendon and it remains unclear how long he intends to remain in Irelnad.