Tuesday 28 February 2017

Nash relishing Oz move as rival sports rue loss of stellar talent

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Conor Nash during a training session with Australia’s International Rules squad last year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Spotsfile
Conor Nash during a training session with Australia’s International Rules squad last year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Spotsfile

Colm O'Rourke reckons he could "do anything" and be a success at it. Trevor Giles sees him as having the potential to be a "top, top player" but for Conor Nash, a future in Gaelic football just isn't on the cards.

In fact, it's probably not even second on the list. 

The 18-year-old heads Down Under later this month to start a two year contract with AFL champions Hawthorn. The move has been mooted for some time but it was far from straight-forward.

Leinster Rugby were interested and have left the door open for him to return to them should Australia not work out for him. And of course Meath football and his club Simonstown Gaels want him around too.

"It was a massive call," Nash explains. "It was back in February I think that I was offered. When I went out, I came back and I was given a lot of time to make a decision because it was such a hard one.

"Yeah, rugby was a massive opportunity for me and if I'd stayed, if I hadn't taken (the AFL deal) I would be playing rugby, hopefully with Leinster, up in UCD.

"It was a massive call but it's an opportunity that I can't pass up and I'm going to give it a crack.

"The Leinster lads were very sound, they said, 'look, if you're back whenever then you're certainly not off the (books)'. So yeah it was massive. I just sat down with my mam and dad and a lot of my coaches and stuff to see what the best decision was."

His move to Hawthorn is the result of a long courtship. When they first expressed an interest in the Navan youngster three years ago, he wasn't keen. Now, he can't wait.

"It's just a new experience, a new country, a new game (where I can) test myself," says Nash (pictured). "To be honest, when it first started, when they contacted me about three years ago, (Aussie Rules) hadn't grown on me.

"But it grew after a while and I really began to like the game. I think it suits me down to the ground with both my rugby background and my Gaelic background."

Consulted

The move hasn't been taken lightly. He has consulted the likes of Tadhg Kennelly and Longford's Michael Quinn. And he's aware that most Irish youngsters come back within a couple of years.

"Tadhg Kennelly gave me a ring, yeah," he says. "I kind of went a different system with Hawthorn, not so much Tadhg's way, but Tadhg was sound out, he gave me a ring and outlined different things that I was feeling. He was very supportive.

"Tommy Walsh too. . . Dad would know Seanie Walsh, he was chatting to Tommy Walsh, so I was chatting to Tommy.

"I had a lot of contact with Michael Quinn up in Longford, did a lot of training with him. He's been massive over the last while. He's been very supportive.

"He said that although he came back after three years it was such a massive opportunity and it was great."

In Navan on Sunday, Nash gave the 6,000 or so Meath football people at the county final a reminder of just what they are losing out on. He landed two points, each demonstrating what he has in his locker.

The first was a booming score from beyond the 45-metre line. The other showcased his physical attributes. Nash stands at 6ft 5ins but he can move. He burned his man on the outside and then had the presence of mind to fist over as he helped Simonstown to their first county senior title.

They play Offaly champions Rhode in a fortnight and the likelihood is they'll line out without Nash, who is due to head to Australia two days later, along with Derry's Conor Glass, who has also signed on with Hawthorn.

Last Sunday, Simonstown manager O'Rourke made no secret of the fact that he wants to see Nash play for Meath. For the time being at least, that seems a long way off. 

"Colm had a couple of words. Colm always has a view and nobody really changes it," he says. "But I know him long enough now ... at school at St Pat's, he's managed me nearly every year with various teams. I've learned how to say no to Colm at this stage!

"Meath senior would certainly have been something I'd have liked to give a crack.

"It can't happen, though. It might happen in a couple of years - we'll see how things pan out. But no, it won't happen for the moment."

Irish Independent

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