Irish Watch – AFL Round 18 Review

The AFL’s Irish contingent would put on a show over the weekend, with their skills, pace and general ability to excite certainly turning heads in what was an enthralling round of football.

For the third consecutive week we would see the same six players feature at AFL level, whilst others pushed their case with some dazzling performances in the state leagues.

23 year old excitement machine Conor McKenna continued to garner attention after another exceptional performance on Friday night against the Crows at Adelaide Oval.

Proving himself to be one of the Bombers most important players, young McKenna set both the Adelaide Oval and social media alight with some simply astounding passages of play. 

The incorporation of Gaelic football into his game was particularly amusing for all supporters of the game, as the Irishman got around Lachie Murphy using a traditional kick to himself, making the young Crow look a fool in the process.

 His bounce of halfback was critical to the Bombers incredible second half resurgence, with his run and carry simply proving too much for the sluggish Crows forwards and midfielders.  

With the Bombers producing their best win of the season and all but securing a finals spot, McKenna was outstanding with 24 disposals and two tackles.

 He also used the ball at an impressive 79% and was apart of the run and dash that saw Essendon power over the top of the Crows.

In a weekend full of big moments and thrilling finishes, youngster Colin O’Riordan would be thrown right in the middle of a nail-biter as the inexperienced Swans travelled West to take on the out of form Dockers.  

In what was a scrappy, low scoring affair, O’Riordan would thrive with his ruthless attack on the ball and ability to read the play effectively.

 Playing a responsible role across the half back line, his ball use and composure was vital all night for the Swans, as they constantly stayed in the game and challenged the more experienced Fremantle side.

Finishing up with 18 disposals at 89%, five marks and two tackles, it was one of O’Riordan’s best performances of the year as he continues to stamp himself into the Swan’s best 22.

The Cats poor form would continue on Sunday afternoon as they fell victim to the systematic brilliance of Alastair Clarkson and the Hawks. 

Zach Tuohy continued his good recent run of form with another excellent game across half back.  

In a defence that was constantly under pressure from the young Hawthorn midfield, the veteran stood up well, providing excellent run and producing some outstanding defensive plays.  

His ball use was also relatively solid on a tough day, using at a reasonable 65% and taking on the risky options to help Geelong.

 He was also effective in rebounding the ball out of the Cats inside 50, and was important in leading an inexperienced Cats defence.

Finishing up with 20 disposals and three marks, Tuohy was one of few who could hold his head high after a tough day for the Cats.

Mark O’Connor was also solid in defeat for Geelong, as he yet again impressed in his breakout season at AFL level.

 Talked up during the week by his coaches for his courage and total commitment to the team, all of his tough defensive traits were there for all to see at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.

His toughness at the contest was also impressive, as he laid five tackles and collected five contested possessions.

He is also developing his offensive game, as he again was able to get involved with Geelong’s ball movement and pick up a valuable 14 disposals. 

Skills wise he again impressed, using at 93% further showing his potential to be a long time contributor for the Cats in the years to come.

On the other side, Conor Nash got his revenge against the Cats from round five, as he contributed up forward in the Hawks upset win.

Although the stat sheet doesn’t show much, only gathering five disposals and a tackle, his work competing and applying perceived pressure was invaluable to the overall chemistry of Hawthorn’s forward line.

With the Hawks flying over the past month, his influence up forward has been vital as he continues to improve and become a regular contributor at AFL level.

The Irish influence on the league in general continues to grow with talks of Ross McQuillan coming over next year exciting a number of different teams, who are looking to find themselves a Conor McKenna like contributor.

It was also fantastic to see promising young St Kilda defender Darrag Joyce earn a contract extension, tying him to the club until 2021.