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8 GAA Players Who Successfully Returned From The AFL

8 GAA Players Who Successfully Returned From The AFL
Conall Cahill
By Conall Cahill
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Mark O'Connor, the Kerry starlet, is off to play Aussie Rules. But, going by past examples, he may yet be back and tasting inter-county success.

With another young player set to jet off to Australia to try and make a name for themselves in the AFL, GAA fans have their head in their hands once more.

Ever since the great Jim Stynes played ball for Melbourne there have been Irish success stories in the AFL, up until the news today that Pearce Hanley from Mayo has transferred to the Gold Coast Suns from the Brisbane Lions after nine years at the Lions. The latest youngster set to try his luck in Oz is Kerry's former minor star Mark O'Connor, who according to reports will turn out for Geelong.

But Kerry fans needn't despair. There are numerous examples of players who have sought glory Down Under and have ended up returning home to regularly pull on the county jersey - more often than not better than they were when they left. Honourable mention to Kerry star Tommy Walsh here, whose return from St Kilda and Sydney has seen him failing to pick up from where he spectacularly left off in 2009.


1.  Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans)


When Kennelly was 18 he signed a rookie contract with Sydney Swans and went on to spend seven years at the club before returning to Ireland to win an All-Ireland title with Kerry in 2009. Kennelly is the only man who has won an All-Ireland title and an AFL Premiership and by lifting Sam he followed in the footsteps of his dad Tim, who won five All-Irelands in the course of his own career. Last year Kennelly was inducted into the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame.


2. Dermot McNicholl (Derry/St Kilda)


McNicholl's Wikipedia page describes him in the following glowing terms:


Later winning the World Cup for Republic of Ireland in Italy in 1990, where he finished the tournament as top goalscorer with a record of 20 goals. Even though he missed the last group game through suspension as he clipped an opponent on the jah with a right hook in the game before it. He was praise (sic) by many at this time as "the best in the world."

McNicholl's World Cup accomplishments are in reality minimal, but he has won far greater honours - he won an All-Ireland with Derry in 1993 after a short period playing for St Kilda in the AFL.

3. Brian Stynes (Dublin/Melbourne)



Brian's attempts to succeed in the same vein as his legendary brother were not as successful, only clocking up a couple of appearances for Melbourne, but on his return home he did win something Jim never got his hands on: Sam Maguire. Brian climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand in 1995 - the year his club, Ballyboden St Enda's, won their first Dublin title.


4. Martin Clarke (Down/Collingwood)



Martin Clarke's performances for St Louis, Kilkeel in the MacRory Cup and then as a Down minor on their run to an All-Ireland title in 2005 had the entire county salivating at the prospect of a new Greg Blaney emerging to lead Down back into the glory days. When Clarke left to join Aussie Rules side Collingwood in 2006 it seemed like his days in the famous red and black might be over. But the year after Kennelly had returned to Kerry, Clarke came home, won an Allstar and nearly took Down to an incredible All-Ireland title, losing to Cork by just a point in the final. He unsuccessfully returned to Collingwood, suffered injury and illness and is back home, playing with his club An Riocht.

5. Michael Quinn (Longford/Essendon)


After signing for Essendon in 2008, Mickey Quinn's debut had Stynes predicting a bright future in the AFL. And for a couple of seasons it looked like this might still materialise. After eight games in Oz, however, Quinn set sights for home and has since won a Division 3 title with Longford and three Longford club championships with Emmet Og Killoe as well as representing Ireland in International Rules and being nominated for an All-Star award in 2012. It is perhaps no coincidence that since Quinn returned from Australia Longford's fortunes have improved somewhat, as the benefits of the professional regime were evident in his frame upon returning home.

6. Brendan Murphy (Carlow/Sydney Swans)


When Carlow minor footballers went on a run to the Leinster final in 2007 a mainstay of that success was a young sensation called Brendan Murphy. That year he followed Kennelly's path to Sydney Swans but, around the time the Kerryman was collecting his Celtic Cross, Murphy was announcing his decision to leave the Swans after failing to make a first team appearance. He returned to Ireland to drag Carlow to within a point of Dublin in the under 21 Leinster championship and his club to a Carlow title (something they replicated in 2014).

7. Dan Flynn (Kildare/Port Adelaide)

Flynn's short period at Port Adelaide in 2014 ended after a bout of homesickness and the NUI Maynooth student is back in the inter-county scene with Kildare. We've included him here largely because it gives us a chance to show this incredible goal once more:

8. Aisake Ó hAilpín (Cork/Carlton)


Last thing we heard Aisake was playing lower-level Aussie Rules but it was after playing for Carlton (and being de-listed) that he returned to Cork to join the hurling panel in 2009 as a 24-year old. He scored 1-1 against Tipperary in the Munster quarter-final in 2010 and notched a goal in the drawn Munster final against Waterford. But there was to be no glorious return and shortly after semi-final defeat to Kilkenny in the 2010 campaign he headed back to the land of Oz.

Check out his goal against Waterford (it's the first one) below:

Feel free to let us know if we've missed anyone significant.

SEE ALSO: How Chelsea Winning The Champions League Cost Kieran Donaghy His Kerry Place

SEE ALSO: WATCH: Determined To Get Sent Off? Galway Hurling Final Ends In Violent Brawl Again



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