Pat Spillane among the emerging stars put through their paces at AFL draft combine
Kilkenny's Darragh Joyce, Dublin's Donal McIlghorm and Kerry's Pat Spillane, son of the Kingdom legend of the same name, were among 20 hopefuls out to impress at the fourth AFL Europe Draft Combine yesterday.
International talent co-ordinator Tadhg Kennelly acknowledged the intense competition with other sports for Ireland's young GAA stars but he feels, despite the amateur status of our games, that players are well positioned to make it in the AFL.
'You're trying to create a small pathway for players to say 'well, this might or not be for me'," said Kennelly, "What we're trying to do is create an opportunity and give them the chance they would have with rugby or soccer.
"People can be unhappy, they can be happy about it but it's going to happen in soccer and rugby and we're just trying to make it a fact that players are given the opportunity to be a professional footballer.
"I think the players understand now, and the Australian people understand that the game is amateur and the player isn't. It's not amateur in as far as the physical preparation of the players and their size and the way they perform."
Elsewhere, 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly is "excited" by the prospect of Donal Óg Cusack's arrival as Clare coach.
Clare crashed out of the qualifiers in 2014 and 2015 but Cusack's appointment has marked them out as a team to watch next year.
Kelly, who will share captaincy with Cian Dillon next year, told Clare FM: "When I heard the news, excitement was the first word that comes to mind. We hope he'll be able to add something new to us and something other teams won't be able to catch onto.
"Players will be buzzing going back in trying to impress Donal Óg - they want to show what they're made of, put their name forward and come up in his estimation."
On the return of All-Star attacker Podge Collins to the Banner set-up, Kelly said: "Podge coming in would be a big plus to any team in the country - the way he performed for us in 2013 especially, we're only dying to get him back onto the field.
"He was vital when we were winning and hopefully he'll be a vital part of it this year as well."
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