Irish Watch – AFL Round 20 review

Injuries would unfortunately take their toll on a couple of the AFL’s Irish players in round 20, with mainstays Mark O’Connor and Colin O’Riordan failing to feature for their sides in what was an enthralling weekend of football.

We would still see a number of players take the field at both AFL and state league level, with McKenna’s return from his brothers wedding in Ireland providing a boost for the Bombers.

However, it would not be enough to lift them over a resurgent Port Adelaide outfit, who after three straight losses hit back at their critics with a complete performance on Saturday afternoon at Marvel Stadium.

With Essendon missing a number of key contributors, Port would put them to the sword dominating from start to finish as they push towards a finals berth over the final three rounds.

As for McKenna, he would pick up where he left off a fortnight ago with another solid performance across half back for the Bombers.

In what was predominantly a fast paced and free flowing game, McKenna was crucial to the Bombers chances with his drive from defence a major threat to the under fire Power.

His efforts would not be good enough though, as the Bombers were simply out worked, out hunted and out played by a more desperate Port team.

McKenna however would be buoyed by his performance, as he again used the ball brilliantly going at 76% and consistently got himself into dangerous positions.

He would also gather a good amount of the ball, picking up 21 disposals, three marks and a tackle to be a bright spot on what was a tough day for Essendon. 

With a big three weeks now coming up for his team, McKenna’s performance will be critical as they hope to lock up a finals spot.

McKenna wasn’t the only returning Irishman this weekend with Geelong veteran Zach Tuohy returning after a week off for the Cats pivotal clash with Fremantle at Optus Stadium.

With the Cats players spending the week over in Perth heading into the game, they were always going to be a curious watch with critics almost certainly going to circle if they were unable to produce.

As the Dockers faced immense pressure of the own, Ross Lyon’s men would stand up to perfection as they backed up their coach by completely outplaying the Cats in a desperate and tough brand of footy.

Now well and truly back with the pack, Geelong will need to get over their form slump quickly if they are to lock away top spot.

As for Tuohy, he along with a vast majority were below their best at Optus Stadium, as the Cats simply couldn’t withstand the pressure bought by the youth of the Dockers.  

Playing in a defence that was under siege from quarter time onwards, Tuohy would only manage 12 disposals, two marks and four tackles in one of his quieter games of the season.

Although he wasn’t able to find the ball on many occasion, his ball use was flawless, going at 100% with his calmness under pressure proving to be extremely valuable on a number of occasions.  

After a season best performance last week, Conor Nash would enter the Friday night stage full of confidence as the Hawks faced North Melbourne in a must win clash for their fading finals aspirations.

It would be a fast start for Hawthorn who piled on the first four goals inside 15 minutes to send a shock through newly appointed North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw and his Kangaroo’s.  

However the tide would turn quickly, as a dominant display after quarter time would see North Melbourne celebrate their 150th anniversary in style with a gritty 22 point win.

With Hawthorn’s forward 50 entries being extremely average all night, Nash would struggle as one of the key pillars.

Clearly still developing his craft as a forward, he just couldn’t get involved for the majority of the night only claiming six touches and a mark.

He still managed to make his presence felt in the forward half however, as he exhibited elite forward pressure with five tackles and constantly made life difficult for the North Melbourne defenders.

Very much a work in progress, its important for the Hawks to persist with the Irishman as they look to build a young and dangerous forward line.

The Gold Coast would take their first trip to the MCG this season as they faced an under fire Collingwood in a crucial Sunday afternoon clash.

Having fallen agonisingly short of upsetting the in form Bombers last week, the confidence of the Suns was high as they looked create a major boil over and create a media storm at Collingwood.

Unfortunately, the class of the Magpies would see them bounce back with vigour as they put the young Suns to the sword in a clinical confidence building display.

After a prolific game last week, veteran Irish defender Pearce Hanley could not repeat those same heroics as Collingwood did an excellent job in negating his run and carry off half back. 

On a tough day for his team, Hanley would only manage 14 disposals, four marks and a tackle with his lack of impact on the game a major influence on the Sun’s inability to move the ball successfully.

In the VFL, irishman Conor Glass did his hopes of a late season recall no harm with an outstanding 19 disposal performance for Box Hill in their two point loss to North Melbourne’s reserves.

For Collingwood, Anton Tohill continued his development with a strong outing against the Northern Blues at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.  

Playing up forward, he was able to hit the scoreboard with two majors and apply some excellent pressure which, without a doubt, would have pleased the higher powers at the Magpies.

Zac Standish – AFL Europe.