Irish Watch: AFL Round Two Review

After a week of incredible upsets to kick off the 2019 season, round two did not disappoint with a number of tight finishes and incredible results headlining an action-packed weekend of footy.

It would again be five Irishmen to take the field this weekend for their respective sides, while the rest wait anxiously for their various state league fixtures to kick off this coming weekend.

Starting with the feel-good story of the week, Irish veteran Pearce Hanley would be a key contributor as the underdog Suns pulled off an in upset victory over the inform Fremantle Dockers on Sunday afternoon.

With many critics questioning whether the Suns would even win a game in 2019, coach Stuart Dew had the boys from up North playing an inspired brand with a number of unheralded youngsters paving the way for a defining win in the club’s short history.

Alongside the club’s youth, Hanley was superb in guiding the side with his experience as he claimed 19 disposals in a clinical display off the half back line.

With injury wrecking his past two seasons up on the Gold Coast, it was great to see Hanley fit and firing at Metricon Stadium on Sunday Afternoon, with the trademark dash that saw him become one of the most exciting players in the competition beginning to come back into his game.

He would also show great leadership throughout the match, with his cool head proving critical at time as the Suns grinded out an impressive victory.

After being overlooked last week, Sydney brought back crafty Irish defender Colin O’Riordan for their massive Friday night clash with the Adelaide Crows at the SCG.

Despite one major blunder where he inexplicably gifted Adelaide rookie Chayce Jones a baffling 100-meter penalty due to the new rules introduced this season, the 23 year old was gallant in defense taking five marks and having 15 disposals.

Kicking at 73%, O’Riordan was always willing to take on the risky option and get the Swans ball movement moving positively after a stagnant start to the season.

He was also pivotal in helping Sydney curtail the influence of some of Adelaide’s premier forwards, with the likes of Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts, Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins only combining for five goals.

Despite his efforts, the Swans were simply outclassed by the Crows who claimed a crucial 26-point win to get off the mark in season 2019.

It was a thriller at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. After holding a comfortable 30 point lead at three-quarter-time Conor Nash’s Hawks would fall victim to an incredible comeback that saw the Western Bulldogs kick nine goals to one in the last term and steal a famous victory.

After playing his role to perfection in last week’s upset win over the Crows, Nash would have a quitter afternoon at the home of football only managing eight disposals and a tackle on a wet afternoon in Melbourne.

Despite his low stats, Nash would still find ways to contribute with his pressure around the ball and energy at the contest yielding positive results for the Hawks on a number of occasions.

It was a demolition job down at the Cattery on Saturday night as Mark O’Connor’s Cat’s drew revenge on the Demon’s from last year’s elimination final to claim an emphatic 80-point win.

After having perhaps, the best game of his career last week against Collingwood, O’Connor wouldn’t have quite the same influence against Melbourne as he only gathered 11 disposals in a rain-soaked match down in Geelong.

Despite this, the defensive aspects of O’Connor’s game were exceptional as he along with the rest of the backline kept Melbourne to a lowly 46 from an astounding 72 inside 50’s.

His disposal was also solid in the wet, with his dash off half back setting up the Cats for scores on multiple occasions.

It was another dismal day for the Bombers, who after being destroyed by GWS in round one failed to bounce back, suffering a humiliating 11-point loss to a re-building St Kilda.

In a match headlined by comedic errors from the Bombers, McKenna stood tall off half back claiming 17 disposals in what was a gallant performance.

Renowned for his run and dash off half back, the Irishmen would do all he could to inspire his teammates as he constantly looked to take the game on and be aggressive with his ball use.

After a few solid seasons at the top level, McKenna is beginning to show signs of big improvement in 2019 as he hopes to become a regular high performer in the Essendon side and lead them out of the major hole they find themselves in just two weeks into the season.

So, with another week under the belt things intensify in the wild world of AFL, with shock results and as teams adjust to the new rule and interpretation changes – nothing is certain in this competition.

With more Irish players set to start their seasons next weekend either at AFL or state league level, it will be interesting to see how far they grow as 2019 looms as a transcendent year for Irish footballers.