Irish Watch – AFL Round 13 Review

Round 13 would be the second of the AFL’s bye rounds with Geelong, Melbourne, Collingwood, West Coast, Brisbane and Sydney all enjoying a well deserved week off.

This would mean only two Irish players would feature at AFL level, with Conor Glass and Conor McKenna facing off against each other in a blockbuster Friday night clash between Essendon and Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium.

Sitting in 10th and 11th on the ladder, it was always going to be a tight contest with the finals hopes for both teams well and truly on the line.  

After an enthralling first half, the Bombers would eventually kick into gear late in the third term to bust the game open and pull away to a commanding five goal lead.

Although pushed in the dying stages by a rejuvenated Hawthorn, it would be too little to late for Clarkson’s men as Essendon claimed a crucial 19 point win to boost their claims for a finals spot.  

Without a doubt one of the star’s of the night for the red and black, it was perhaps a career best performance for Conor McKenna as everything seemed to click perfectly into gear.

After an incredibly consistent beginning to the year, this was the game McKenna needed to really prove himself as one of the competition’s most improved players for season 2019.

 Playing his usual role as a creator and distributor across halfback, McKenna tore up the Hawks all night picking up 25 disposals, four marks and a tackle while using the ball at a super impressive 80%.

Combining brilliantly with fellow running defender Adam Saad, the duo were lethal off half back for Essendon all night and really set up the victory in the way they took the game on and get the Bombers ball movement going.

It was also great to see the skills of the Irishman, as he wasn’t afraid to take the risky options and was superb in hitting his targets for the entire night.

McKenna certainly delivered on the Friday night stage.

On the other side, Conor Glass was given a new role by coaching mastermind Alastair Clarkson as a forward.

Having played the majority of his career in the backline, it was a surprising yet effective switch for the 21 year old Irishman as he enjoyed his best game of the season at AFL level.

Standing at 189cm and 84kg, Glass would be a welcome presence in the forward 50 for the Hawks who have struggled to find real potency in their attack in recent weeks.  

Playing as a pressure forward, Glass was excellent in pressuring the Bombers defenders as well as making a contest in the air to assist the likes of Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo on ground level.

In a performance that would have without a doubt pleased the coaches, Glass ended up with a solid 14 disposals and four marks at an impressive 86% efficiency.

He would also manage to kick his first AFL goal, as he picked up a loose ball on the 50 metre arc and slammed it home to change the momentum of the game and give the Hawks a lift before half time. 

In the state leagues, Hawthorn’s Conor Nash pushed his case for a recall into the senior side with an excellent performance for Box Hill in their narrow loss to ladder leaders Essendon.

Capped off with a memorable goal which featured a fend off and classy finish from 45, Nash showed his athleticism and potential to be a genuine difference maker in attack at AFL level for years to come.