Irish eyes were smiling on Saturday night as County Tipperary product, Aisling McCarthy made her debut for the Western Bulldogs in the AFLW.
While still learning the finer points of the Australian game, McCarthy is able to identify areas where she could excel in her chosen pathway, thanks to her history in Gaelic sports.
“The kicking is a little bit different, but I do bring a bit of that...I’m really competitive too, and strong around the ball.
“The tackling rules are a bit different, but I think my drive to win the football is something that can transfer too.
“I’ll be working on different things throughout the year & I think I can only go up really.”
She won’t be working on them alone. McCarthy echoed comments from teammates about the strong and close-knit environment in Footscray; she highlighted several players who’ve helped her transition to a new life in a new hemisphere.
“Lauren Spark was a big person for me, she was involved in the process of getting me here. She was there from day one and I lived with her for the first two weeks.
“Off the field she’s been great; on the field too, she’s instrumental as a leader. I can always bounce questions off her.
“I suppose the two big ones, Ellie [Blackburn] and Katie [Brennan], they’re co-captains for a reason, they really get around all of the girls & make sure they’re inclusive. They were also great last week when I missed out: there to chat, they gave me some tips and this week they were advising me on my first game, mostly just to go out there and enjoy it.”
In coach Paul Groves’ view, McCarthy may be joined by many more of her compatriots in the league very soon. In the meantime, the handful of players already picked up by AFLW clubs have forged bonds and friendships away from the Emerald Isle.
“Yvonne has been great to communicate with, she came out with me in September and got picked up in the same way as I did.
“She’s hit the ground running – she’s going to be a real star. Cora [Staunton] has the experience of last year; she catches up with me and makes sure I’m alright.
“Having Sarah Rowe at Collingwood is great; we meet up every one or two weeks, to check in with each other and do things away from footy. It’s great to have that Irish connection as well.”
It took the men’s competition almost a hundred years to unearth its first Irish-origin star; in just three short years, the AFLW may have found its own five-leaf clover in Staunton, Bonner, Rowe and Adelaide’s Ailish Considine alongside McCarthy, with others not far behind. Surely this is a pot of gold worth celebrating.