Conor McKenna: I'd advise any Irish player that it is hard, but it's worth it
Conor McKenna is exceptional.
Not so much for anything he does on the pitch, although he is developing a reputation as a very handy Australian Rules Football player, more so he's an exception to the rule.
Of the 65 Irish players that have gone to Australia in the hope of carving out a professional career there, just over a third have actually played a game in the AFL. Of that group, only 10 players have actually played over 20 games, in a calendar year where teams play a minimum of 22 games in a season.
Conor McKenna is part of the latter grouping and he said that it is a struggle trying to crack the AFL.
"I was struggling to go back," the Tyrone native told the ABC.
"My dad didn't force me, but he advised me that it was the right thing to do. It wasn't easy. I'd advise any Irish player that it is hard, but it's worth it if you can get through that."
McKenna has played 58 games for Essendon to date as the 11th placed Bombers look to close the gap on the top eight. He's played all seven games for the club this season and is developing a great sense of independence with last season's three-week ban for biting Western Bulldogs forward Tory Dickson serving as a steep learning curve for the 23-year-old.
"That's the way Melbourne is, you're the headline for one week. Then something else happens and you're forgotten about," McKenna added.
"That's why it doesn't really bother me what people think of me."
McKenna's Essendon will square off against the Sydney Swans on Friday and former Tipperary footballer Colin O'Riordan is in line to play with Swans coach John Longmire telling their club website. that he deserves a game against the Bombers.
“Colin’s form has been absolutely fantastic in our reserves so he really deserves a game,” said Longmire.
“He played a fair bit of senior footy over the pre-season so it is good to have him back in the team.”