Ulster AFL recruits ready to restart season Down Under

By Niall McCoy

ULSTER’S five AFL recruits are in differing situations as the 2020 season gets set to restart again on June 11.

On Saturday, Essendon player Conor McKenna landed back in Australia having flown home to Ireland when the season was postponed on March 22 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Eglish man is now in the middle of a two-week quarantine period and will not be able to rejoin his club’s training until May 30.

Given that the senior squad met for the first time on Monday, it means that he will doubtful for the Bombers’ first game in three weeks’ time. He told Gaelic Life that he has been able to complete a number of sessions in isolation so he may yet be ready.

That June 11 fixture will be only the second Essendon game of the season with the competition postponed after week one.

The first was played behind closed doors with the Bombers defeating Freemantle 63-57, although McKenna did not feature. He is contracted with Essendon until the end of the 2021 season.

There are no such quarantine requirements for Hawthorn player Conor Glass though.

The Maghera man had wanted to come home to Ireland but cancelled flights meant that he was unable to.

That has allowed him to train with the club’s senior squad this week and he completed a weights session on Monday and a running session yesterday.

Armagh’s Ross McQuillan (Essendon) and Derry pair Callum Brown and Anton Tohill (both Collingwood) flew home alongside McKenna, and fellow Irish AFL players Cian McBride, James Madden and Luke Towey when the virus first broke out.

The Ulster trio remain in Ireland currently but are hoping to get back to Australia in the very near future.

McQuillan said that the coronavirus situation hasn’t dampened his ambitions to be a success in the AFL.

He signed an international rookie contract with the Melbourne club last September and that takes him through until the end of the 2021 season.

No, it hasn’t changed my stance,” he said.

Hopefully they will get games up going again because while the AFL is running the VFL, where you learn your trade, is shut down.

They are talking about trying to get practice games and whatnot so I’m keen to get back out.”

The Cullyhanna man may only be a few months into his new sporting career, but he said that he was loving the experience on the other side of the world.

It has been unbelievable,” he said.

You go in and you train in the morning, you do your weights, you do your meetings and then you head home.

It’s a brilliant lifestyle and Australia is such a lovely country. When we were there it was sunny and you couldn’t have asked for better.

It has been just such a great experience for me.”

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