Another week down in the AFL season and a number of our Irish players went about cementing themselves in their respective sides as finals creep closer and closer.
Round 17 would see six Irish players take the field across Australia, with a number of standout performances highlighting an excellent weekend of action.
Saturday afternoon would see Essendon face North Melbourne in what turned out to be one of the games of the season under the roof at Marvel Stadium.
Conor McKenna would continue his excellent form with another excellent game across half back for the in-form Bombers.
Making a name as one of Essendon’s most important players, McKenna’s run out of defence was critical all day, as he often took advantage of North Melbourne’s lack of outside speed.
Along with his work on the outside, McKenna also showed improved inside presence collecting a season high 11 contested possessions, adding yet another aspect to his already impressive game.
Recognised as one of the best players on the ground, the Irishman would end up with 25 disposals, one mark and three tackles as he continues to show his potential as one of the AFL’s best running defenders.
The Saints would take on the competitions hard task on Saturday night, as they made the trek down the highway to face the ladder leading Cats.
In what was a see-sawing affair, St Kilda would be brave all night long, with it taking Geelong until the last quarter to separate themselves from the 15th placed Saints and secure an important four points.
Playing all 16 games so far this year, Mark O’Connor was again impressive down back for Geelong as he looks to have now undoubtedly cemented himself in their best 22.
Again pivotal in keeping their opposition to a lowly score (57), his work defensively foremost was excellent, as he often made things difficult for St Kilda’s small forwards and produced a number of crucial spoils and tackles.
After an excellent game last week, O’Connor backed up with ball in hand with another 17 disposals, five marks and a tackle using at an outstanding 82%.
With finals just over a month away, O’Connor’s excellent form will definitely see him in Chris Scott’s plans come the pointy end of the season.
Collecting a season high 30 disposals last week, Zach Tuohy was again solid across half back for Geelong in the win over St Kilda.
One of the experienced heads in the Geelong backline, his experience would again be vital as he didn’t panic when the Saints got a run on in the second term and constantly made the correct decisions throughout the match.
Using at an outstanding 82%, he again proved he is over his injury concerns and will have a major role to play in the Cats run at yet another flag in just a couple of months time.
Finishing up with 17 touches and three marks, the Irishman did what he had to do and fought hard in an under pressure Geelong backline.
Conor Nash produced one of his best performances at AFL level as the Hawks stayed within striking distance of the top eight with a crucial 31 point win over Fremantle in Launceston.
On a traditional winters day in Tasmania, blustering winds and searing cold made life tough for tall forwards, with scoreline of 84-53 signifying a tough slog.
However, this wouldn’t stop young Nash having a major impact, as he constantly flew at the ball, made a contest for his teammates and just looked dangerous when the ball was in the forward 50.
It was also good to see Nash get the reward for his effort, as he hit the scoreboard with a crucial major in the third quarter to halt the Dockers building momentum.
Ending up with 12 disposals, a mark and three tackles, Nash should be buoyed by this performance as he hopes to string a number of games together to end the season.
The inconsistent form of the Swans continued on Saturday afternoon, as they were upset by the 17th placed Blues in a peculiar game at the MCG.
Faced with blustery conditions, many struggled with their skills all day, with inaccurate goal kicking and low disposals efficiency proving it to be a tough slog.
Despite this, irishman Colin O’Riordan would thrive with ball in hand, as he played an important defensive role across half back.
Adding some much needed height to the Sydney backline, he would take a team high eight marks, using his athleticism and ability to read the ball to take some crucial intercept marks.
Collecting 12 disposals and four tackles to go along with his eight marks, it was an impressive performance by O’Riordan, as he fit into a new role perfectly.
The woes of the Gold Coast Suns continued on Saturday night, as they were again beaten badly by a fired up Adelaide at Metricon Stadium.
With a number of key soldiers missing, Pearce Hanley was one of very few experienced campaigners in red and gold, and he fought valiantly on what was a dark night for his team.
Trying his absolute hardest to stop the run of the Crows, Hanley always put his head over the ball and tried new things to change the dull fortunes of his team.
Finishing up with an impressive 24 disposals, six marks and three tackles, Hanley was one of very few Sun’s that could hold their heads up high, as the club now goes into a period of serious soul searching after 12 consecutive losses.
By Zac Standish