CONOR McKenna is bidding to become the first Tyrone man to win an AFL Premiership medal when he lines out in the block-buster Grand Final this Saturday for his club Brisbane Lions in front of 100,000 enraptured supporters.
Only one other native of the county – Brocagh-born Aidan Corr – has played in an AFL final though his side finished on the losing side in the 2019 showdown.
Brisbane Lions footballer McKenna is also hoping to join Tadhg Kennelly, who for now at least is the only ever Irishman to win both an AFL Premiership and All-Ireland SFC title in his career.
It’s been a remarkable season for the Eglish native, who wasted no time in re-establishing himself having decided to return for a second stint in the Australian Rules game.
His side Brisbane Lions are set to take on Collingwood in Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 11th largest sporting stadium in the world, and his former Eglish and Tyrone teammate Michael McGleenan wishes him all the very best.
McGleenan, who won an All-Ireland U-20 title with Tyrone last year, said: “It’s great to see one of our own doing so well out there. We were happy for Conor when he got the opportunity to go back to the AFL, even though he’s obviously a big loss to Eglish.
“You can’t blame him one bit, it’s great to see him have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in the AFL and hopefully he’ll come home at some stage with the medal.”
McKenna was one of the star players for the Lions as they secured a place in the Grand Final last Saturday with a 79 to 63 victory over Carlton last Saturday. His second stint Down Under has thus far been a roaring success and McGleenan isn’t surprised that there was no period for acclimatisation for the immensely talented McKenna, who grew up in Benburb.
“It’s amazing that Conor was able to walk straight back into a team competing at the highest level in Australia. I don’t know if he played any VFL games or anything like that, he was straight back into the senior team and starting right away. That’s typical of Conor and the athlete that he is.”
The game will commence in the early hours of Saturday morning (5.30am on this side of the globe) but there will be plenty of friends and family and other supporters tuning in to watch the former Tyrone star, who played a big role in the All-Ireland success of 2021.
McGleenan said: “We’ll have to set the alarms early, I’d say there’ll be a fair amount of TVs on in Eglish on Saturday morning and we wish him all the best.
“I caught a bit of the game at the weekend and sent him a congratulatory message but I’d say he’ll have to switch the phone off as he’s probably getting hundreds of messages.
“They reckon it’s the main sport out there, from watching a couple of the games he’s been involved in, the crowds can be crazy so it’s definitely a great experience for him.”