Thursday 8 December 2016

Connellan and Joyce heading Down Under with AFL outfit St Kilda

Michael Verney

Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30

David Lynch, right, consoles team-mate Ray Connellan after he got injured during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Westmeath. Photo: Sportsfile
David Lynch, right, consoles team-mate Ray Connellan after he got injured during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Westmeath. Photo: Sportsfile

It looked as if Ray Connellan's double leg break in the Leinster SFC final had scuppered his AFL dream but the Westmeath star has been awarded a two-year deal by St Kilda along with Kilkenny hurler Darragh Joyce.

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Connellan underwent surgery for two fibula breaks and ankle ligament damage in the immediate aftermath of their defeat to Dublin and faces a minimum of three months on the sidelines but it is understood that the deal was done before the freak injury.

The Athlone forward impressed during a three-week spell in Melbourne last month, which Joyce also attended, and will embark on a new journey Down Under. His loss will hit Westmeath hard, however, with the 22-year-old one of their most exciting prospects.

Joyce, Kilkenny's All-Ireland-winning minor captain two years ago and younger brother of senior star Kieran, has been linked with a move to the AFL for some time and spent a "trial year" in UCD, where he studied Sport and Exercise Management, to see how he would react to life away from home.

Journey

The Rower-Inistioge teenager passed the test and will join Connellan Down Under as they set embark on their new journey in September. Among other Irish exports to St Kilda is Kerry's All-Ireland winner Tommy Walsh while the young pair join Tipperary's Colin O'Riordan in Australia,

St Kilda scout Tony Elshaug is delighted with his recruits and expects them to settle in seamlessly: "We asked them to go home and spend a week just having a real think about what they were committing to.

"We wanted them to talk to their families about what they would be giving up and leaving behind in terms of home and their studies and the challenges ahead. They both accepted. To be honest, I think they would have been happy to stay in Australia from the time they came out here."

Meanwhile, Tipperary senior football captain Peter Acheson has called for an end to the dual restrictions on minor players on the back of his team's march to Croke Park. He believes that whoever is in charge of the county's minor hurling team next year must allow players to play both codes, after current boss Liam Cahill insisted that it was one code this year.

Acheson, 26, is a former dual minor who won Munster and All-Ireland medals as a hurler in that grade in 2007.

"Maybe if the minor hurling manager is the same manager again next year, a few more might pick football over hurling. Hopefully whoever is in the position will let lads play both."

Irish Independent

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