Irish Watch – AFL Round 14 Review

Round 14 would be the last of the AFL’s bye rounds, with Adelaide, North Melbourne, Gold Coast, GWS, Richmond and Carlton all enjoying a week off.

This wouldn’t impact our Irish contingent, however, with five players suiting up for their respective clubs in what was an action-packed weekend of AFL action.

In what has been one of the great modern-day rivalries, Sydney and Hawthorn would add another chapter to the encounter at the SCG on Friday night, as the class of the young Swans ended up being too much for the out of form Hawks.

Although they didn’t feature in the epic matches of the early to mid-2010’s, Irishman Conor Glass and Colin O’Riordan would be quickly engulfed into the rivalry in what was a fierce Friday night clash.

Having earned a place in the Hawthorn side about a month ago, utility Conor Glass would enjoy a breakout game at the SCG as Clarkson would shift him back to the half-back line despite his success as a pressure forward last week.

Featuring in what was a very inexperienced defence, Glass was superb all night exhibiting a cool head well beyond his years as he constantly repelled the Swans attack and made excellent decisions with the ball in hand.

His hardness in the contest was another feature of this performance as he won a number of key balls in the Hawks back half that could have easily resulted in Sydney goals had he not put his body in the line.

The man from County Derry would end up with a career-high 20 disposals, three marks and a tackle in a display that will almost certainly lock his spot down in the side heading into the back half of the season.

He would also use the ball at an effective 70%, showing his poise coming out of defence and ability to hit teammates in dangerous positions.

After suffering a concussion two weeks ago against the Eagles, O’Riordan would return fresh from the bye with another solid performance across half back and the wing for the Swans.

In what was a crucial game for the club as they look to remain within touching distance of the top eight, O’Riordan would play his role to perfection, providing plenty of run and using his height to be a marking target.

Ending up with 14 disposals and a career-high nine marks, the Irishman had some big moments in the Swans win with his toughness around the contest and precise skills proving pivotal all night.

It was also great to see him really take the game on, as he often took the ball and ran, placing greater pressure on an undersized Hawthorn backline.

Thursday night would see the Bombers look to continue their good form by claiming a major scalp in the Eagles on the road at Optus Stadium.

However, after a bright start, Essendon simply could not match the class and strength of the reigning premiers who, despite a very wayward night in front of the sticks, ran out comfortable 35 point victors.

After one of the best games of his career last week, Conor McKenna battled hard all night but struggled to have that same impact as the Eagles ramped up the pressure on Essendon’s prime ball movers.

In what was a very physical game, McKenna was excellent in being able to break the lines and give Essendon a bit of punch coming off half back.

Easily the best of the Bomber running defenders on the night, McKenna would end up with 17 disposals, four marks and a tackle as he never stopped taking the game on.

His ball use was a particular highlight to his game, as he continues to prove himself as one of the competitions best kicks with an excellent efficiency of 88%.

Going through the first half of the season with just one loss, the post-bye curse would again rear its ugly head for the ladder leading Cats who would drop their second game of the year to Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.

Completely dominated around the ball all night, it was a rough night for Geelong who simply looked flat after a well deserved week off.

The post-bye blues wouldn’t be a problem for Irishman Zach Tuohy however, who enjoyed his best game for the year in a well-rounded performance across half-back against the Power.

With Port constantly pumping the ball inside 50, it seemed as if Tuohy was always there to intercept and get the Cats out of trouble.

His poise under pressure was a particular standout, as he was consistently faced with a barrage of Port Adelaide smalls and midfielders looking to force mistakes deep in Geelong’s back half.

Playing a true general’s role, Tuohy would end up with an impressive 28 disposals and eight marks, whilst using the ball at a moderate 68%.

With injury dominating the start of his season, it seems as if Tuohy is back to his best as the Cats press on towards the finals.

Standing alongside Tuohy in an under fire Cats defence, Mark O’Connor stood up admirably as his stock as an outstanding small defender continues to rise.

With Port running rampant in the midfield, the Cats defenders were superb as the Power only managed 67 points from an incredibly high 56 inside 50’s.

O’Connor would constantly find himself in tough one on one situations against the Port Adelaide smalls and was brilliant in either taking the mark or killing the ball out of bounds or into the hands of a teammate.

He was also very solid under pressure with ball in hand, with his 11 disposals coming deep in defence at an impressive 82% efficiency.

This was certainly a new challenge for the young defender and one he passed with flying colours.

Zac Standish – AFL Europe