Saturday 17 November 2018

Blow for Kerry as top underage prospect Stefan Okunbor set for move to the AFL

29 June 2018; Stefan Okunbor of Kerry during the EirGrid Munster GAA Football U20 Championship Final match between Kerry and Cork at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Kerry. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
29 June 2018; Stefan Okunbor of Kerry during the EirGrid Munster GAA Football U20 Championship Final match between Kerry and Cork at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Kerry. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kerry were able to keep David Clifford playing Gaelic football in the county but it looks like the Kingdom are now going to lose one of their top prospects to the AFL.

Stefan Okunbor played fullback on the Kerry team that reached the U20 All-Ireland semi-final this year and won the Munster U20 Player of the Year award. Previously he won an All-Ireland minor medal with the Kingdom after coming off the bench against Galway in the 2016 final.

Okunbor is set to join AFL outfit Geelong Cats, where two-time Kerry All-Ireland minor champion Mark O'Connor is already on the books. Laois player Zach Tuohy is also a key player with the team.

Okunbor was in line for a possible call-up to the senior Kerry squad in 2019 under new manager Peter Keane, who recently replaced Eamonn Fitzmaurice in the role after a stint with the minors that yielded three consecutive All-Ireland titles.

Okunbor will be the latest in a long line of Irish players to move to the AFL. Speaking on the Fox Footy podcast recently about Okunbor's future team-mate Mark O'Connor, former Kerry All-Ireland-winner Tadhg Kennelly, who had a lengthy career in the AFL with the Sydney Swans, explained why he O'Connor so suited to the sport.

"He’s able to identify what’s needed right there and then," Kennelly said.

"It’s hard to quantify it in terms of numbers, but he can run — he’s got really good endurance — and he’s got very good marking ability.

"But you can’t quantify that true leadership. He’s got a couple of good leaders at his football club like Joel Selwood. But he’s not too dissimilar to someone like Luke Hodge at centre-half back or in the forward line, to say ‘well this is what’s needed, I can go and do it’."

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