AFL recruiters are making enquiring about Monaghan-based underage full-back James Murphy after the youngster's exploits on a GAA field went viral.
Footage from the Monaghan Division 2 Minor Football Championship final and subsequent replay between Sean McDermotts and Doohamlet in which Murphy played was released online and shared widely. Balls.ie understand that an AFL recruiter was alerted to the video and has begun making enquiries into the youngster.
The number of Irish players in the AFL is set to be unprecedented next season as recruiters continue to turn to Gaelic footballers.
This week it was confirmed that Derry's Callum Brown has signed a two-year deal with Great Western Sydney Giants. He became the fifth Irish player to do so in recent months. James Madden (Dublin) has signed for Brisbane, Mark Keane (Cork) and Anton Tohill (Derry) have both signed for Collingwood and Stefan Okunbor (Kerry) has signed for Geelong.
Per the AFL website, North Melbourne are also preparing to table an offer to Sligo's Red Óg Murphy while AFL clubs West Coast and Essendon are reported to have been in contact with Jordan Morrissey. Balls.ie understand an offer will be forthcoming for the Carlow minor.
AFL clubs have begun to strategise their approach, targetting players who they feel will be more suited to their sport rather than merely talented Gaelic footballers. Recent Carlton signing, Anton Tohill, did not make the starting Derry minor team but performed impressively at the draft. As Conor Nash outlined in an interview with Balls.ie earlier this year, recent Irish recruits have strived physically:
Physically, a lot of the Irish boys are streets ahead. They always say how fast or well-developed a lot of us lads are. So certainly, physically we are flying. The challenge is more with your learning capacity.
Last year's AFL European Draft combine was further evidence of that as James Madden from Dublin just smashed the all-time 20m record.
In Nash's case, Hawthorn identified the Meath man through the school's Gaelic football system, not inter-county.
The increase in recruitment comes after former Down footballer Marty Clarke took up a part-time role with the AFL to mentor prospects in Ireland. Earlier this year, Clarke travelled to Florida for an AFL academy camp along with a number of Irish players including Tohill, Morrissey, Keane and Madden.
The current list of Irish AFL players contains representatives of a variety of counties: Derry (3), Cork (1), Dublin (1), Kerry (2), Laois (1), Mayo (1), Kilkenny (1), Tipperary(1), Meath (1), Tyrone (1).