'A dream come true' - Blow for Tipperary as Colin O’Riordan pens rookie AFL contract
Tipperary will be without Colin O’Riordan for at least the next two years as the dual player has signed an international rookie contract with Sydney Swans.
The Swans have had mixed luck with Irish recruits in recent years, with Tadhg Kennelly the only former GAA player to win a premiership, while his fellow Kerryman, Tommy Walsh had an injury-interrupted term before returning home.
Brendan Murphy and Chrissy McKaigue are two others that failed to establish themselves and returned to Carlow and Derry respectively.
Kennelly is now the AFL’s international talent coordinator who has facilitated the appearance of O’Riordan and Darragh Joyce at this weekend’s AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne.
O’Riordan, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Monday by travelling back home, had a trial with the Swans earlier in the week and created an instant impression.
"It’s unreal, it’s a dream come true," said O’Riordan after the deal was struck.
"I fell in love with Sydney instantly and from the moment I arrived at the club I felt at home as everyone was so welcoming.
"It hasn’t sunk it yet but when I touch down in Ireland and see my family I’m sure it will."
The 19-year-old was named Gaelic football's young player of the year in 2014 and has twice earned junior All Ireland honours.
Early suggestions are that O’Riordan could develop into a goalkicking midfielder in the Pearce Hanley mould. Sydney’s recruiting manager, Kinnear Beatson was keen to get the JK Brackens talent signed on quickly.
"Colin came to the club early this week for a trial and had a training session with members of our academy where he instantly impressed us," Beatson said.
"What struck us the most was how well he kicked the footy – he’s clearly been doing a lot of work on that – and he genuinely looks like an AFL footballer.
"He’s got great skills, takes the ball at the highest point when marking overhead, his work ethic and his competitiveness really shone out in the session he had with us.
"We’re really excited Colin has decided to join the Swans and we know he’s got the attitude and drive to give himself the best possible chance to forge a long and successful career."
Meanwhile, All-Ireland minor hurling captain, Darragh Joyce has no shortage of suitors either, having stood out at the international combine in DCI last December. The 18-year-old revealed that first-hand experience of the economic downturn was behind his ambition.
"I'm out here to do business and get a contract," Joyce said. "I've had interviews with the Swans, St Kilda, Essendon, Brisbane and the Bulldogs, so there has been a bit of interest.
"That's the whole reason I'm out here, because if a contract weren't on the cards I wouldn't be out here. I've put college on hold to come out here and chase a dream," Joyce said.
"My father works abroad in London as plasterer for the past four years because all the work has dried up in Ireland.
"I've had the footy in my hands every day back at home, but once we got knocked out of the hurling with Kilkenny, I've practised even more so.
"It's a fantastic opportunity."