Irish Watch – Round Five Review

It was a festival of football over the Easter break, as a special round five extended from Thursday to Monday and brought with it some incredible highlights.

Whether it be another Easter Monday classic between the Cats and Hawks, Eddie turning it on his 300thor the Blues serving up their first win of the year, footy fans across the nation were truly blessed throughout the holiday period.

For the Irish contingent, it was another big round of action at all levels, with the same four players from the previous two weeks flying the Irish flag in the AFL this past weekend.

It was a big Sunday afternoon for Gold Coast veteran Pearce Hanley, who brought up his 150thAFL game in a crucial clash with the Crows.

Coming into the game with a 3-1 record, expectations were high as the Suns looked to continue their strong run of form against an out of sorts Adelaide outfit.

However, in their toughest test of the year, the Suns youngsters ran out of gas at the Adelaide Oval as an inspired Crows side belted the inexperienced Gold Coast from pillar to post.

Serving as a key piece in a solid Suns defence over the past month of the season, Hanley had his best game for the year in the side’s 73-point defeat, as he constantly repelled Adelaide attacks and tried to spark the Suns ball movement.

Winding back the clock in his milestone game, Hanley would end up with 29 disposals, six marks and four tackles while using the ball at 70%, in what was a dominant performance off the half-back flank.

It was a very Good Friday for Conor McKenna’s Bombers as they tore apart a lacklustre North Melbourne side under the roof at Marvel Stadium.

After a slow start to the season, Essendon has really begun to hit their straps over the past three weeks, as three big wins have seen a number of key players come into form and their style of play move from strength to strength.

Renowned as one of the competitions most exciting and attacking sides, much of their ability to move the ball with frenetic pace comes from their defence, with young McKenna a particular driver off half back.

Reaching the 20-disposal mark for the fourth consecutive week, McKenna was again excellent on Friday afternoon as he ended up with 26 disposals and four inside 50’s with an excellent efficiency of 77%.

Very bold and forward thinking in the way he approaches his footy, the excitement of McKenna was on display for all to see against the Kangaroos, as he was never afraid to take the risky option and take on the opposition with his run and dash.

The famous Easter Monday clash between Geelong and Hawthorn would also see two Irish players go head to head, with Mark O’Connor and Conor Nash given the opportunity to compete on one of football’s biggest days.

In a tight tussle, the class of the Cats would just prevail as they held off a fast-finishing Hawthorn outfit to run out 23-point victors.

O’Connor would have perhaps his best game in the blue and white hoops, as he again played a pivotal role as a small defender in a tight Geelong back six.

Matched up against dangerous small forwards such as Chad Wingard and Luke Breust, the Irishmen more than held his own having 15 disposals and five marks whilst using the ball at an extremely impressive 87%.

Both Breust and Wingard would also fail to record a major, showing the tenacity and hunger of his defensive efforts on two of the game’s most skilful players.

On the other hand, it would be a day to forget for Nash inside Hawthorn’s forward 50, as the athletic Irishmen failed to have any major impact, only recording two disposals and two tackles for the afternoon.

At state level, it was exciting to see Zach Tuohy return to competitive football in the Cats nail-biting three-point win over Werribee in the VFL.

Playing across half-back, Tuohy showed his class throughout his limited game time, managing 14 disposals at a very efficient rate.

Meanwhile, in the NEAFL, fringe Sydney defender Colin O’Riordan was a stand-out in the Swans reserves victory over Redland.

Playing both in defence and up forward, O’Riordan was brilliant all day amassing 26 disposals and eight marks, as well as a clutch last quarter goal to see his side to a nail-biting victory.

With the ANZAC round now upon us, expect plenty more action from the AFL with a number of Irish players finding their feet at AFL level.

By Zac Standish.