Round Eight would see a tied season high five Irish players take the field on AFL venues around Australia with a number of outstanding performances highlighting an exciting weekend.
Friday night footy at the SCG would see two of the competitions most exciting cross coders do battle, with Colin O’Riordan’s Swans and Conor McKenna’s Bombers producing a match for the ages.
Decided by a David Myers 60 metre shot after the siren which just didn’t make the distance, it was a tight contest from start to finish with the lead constantly changing and never going above two goals.
In the end it would be the Swans that outlasted the Bombers, giving them their second win of the year and a springboard to get their season back on track.
Returning to the Swans lineup after some excellent form in the NEAFL, O’Riordan would reward the selectors faith with a breakout performance.
Playing across half back and on the wing, he would collect 17 disposals, four marks and four tackles to go along with a goal with his presence critical to the overall success of the team.
His hardness at the contest was a particular highlight of his game as he had a positive influence on a number of key moments, while his ball use and general match smarts were also on display for all to see.
On the other end, Conor McKenna continued his strong form for the Bombers with an influential 14 disposals at 64% to go with three marks and four tackles.
He was big in the last quarter in particular, as he took a number of bold kicks and was instrumental in Essendon’s improved ball movement.
His goal in particular showed the character and temperament of the man, as after gathering the ball on the 50 metre line he proceeded to go back and put through a long-range major to give the Bombers back the lead in the dying stages.
Moments such as that show McKenna’s development, as he continues to ingrain himself in Essendon’s best 22 and push towards being a very good AFL player.
Geelong would continue their stellar start to the 2019 season with a gritty win over North Melbourne under the roof of Marvel Stadium on Mother’s Day.
After withdrawing late with general soreness last week, Zach Tuohy would return to the Cats lineup with a solid display off half back, slotting beautifully into the competitions best defence.
In what was a see sawing encounter, Tuohy would warm into the contest with a moderate 15 disposals and five marks with his experience and decision-making particular highlights to his game.
Coming back from a long-term injury, expect Tuohy’s input to increase gradually over the next few weeks as he looks to be 100% right come the pointy end of the season.
Tuohy’s Irish teammate Mark O’Connor would continue his breakout year with another very strong outing in the back pocket for the Cats.
Dealing with in form small forward Cam Zurhaar for the majority of the afternoon, O’Connor was resolute as always as he defended strongly, was excellent in the contest and really gave the opposition forwards nothing.
Along with his lockdown work, O’Connor was impressive in helping springboard the Cat’s attack as he peeled off his man on a number of occasions to claim 17 disposals, three marks and two tackles.
With his confidence rising every week, it has been great to see his true character flourish on the field as he now looks for bolder options with ball in hand and backs himself in to compete at the highest level.
We would again be witness to a thriller on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon as Pearce Hanley’s Sun’s suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Demons.
In a nail-biting affair, it would come down to the dying seconds for Melbourne who were able to snatch a famous victory courtesy of an ugly Tom McDonald behind with one second to spare.
Coming back from a brief injury setback, Hanley slotted seamlessly back into the Suns lineup, leading the teams inexperienced defensive admirably.
Claiming a solid stat line of 20 disposals, three marks and five tackles, Hanley was critical throughout proceedings on Saturday night as he often made the right decisions with the ball and made the players around him walk taller.
Although the Suns just went down, it was clear that Hanley’s presence brought out the best in the team, as he constantly provides that much needed veteran guidance.
In the VFL, Hawthorn midfielder Conor Glass was excellent for Box Hill in their thrilling draw with Footscray with 24 disposals and a goal as he pushes for senior selection.
By Zac Standish