‘Unbelievable’ Corkman a standout talent as AFL recruiters trial Irish footballers

Cork’s Mark Keane was the “standout” performer at the AFL Combine in Dublin this weekend, writes Stephen Barry.

Keane is expected to be on the radar of Australian clubs after European recruiters saw the Mitchelstown footballer excel in a training match.

AFL.com.au noted his “outstanding game sense, kicking and contested marking”, with reporter Ryan Davidson saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Keane gets recruited even before next month’s AFL Academy camp in Florida.

“Mark Keane was unbelievable today,” Davidson told Balls.ie.

“I work with recruiters back home and if I was going to pick anyone today, I would be putting him on the plane to America next month but I wouldn't be surprised if he got picked up before that.

Mark Keane and Anton Tohill. Pic: INPHO/Bryan Keane

“For a bloke that hasn't done any footie before, his kicking was really good, took a couple of strong marks, had poise, he was really good.”

The 6-foot-3-inch midfielder lined out for the Cork Under-17 and Minor teams this summer.

Colm Begley, formerly of the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda, and now back with Laois, was scouting for Geelong, while Essendon also had a recruiter in attendance.

Retired Collingwood and Down footballer Marty Clarke, who was putting the 23 youngsters through their paces at UCD, says big, mobile players are the focus for recruiters.

“Every year the standard seems to be getting higher and higher,” Clarke told AFL.com.au.

“The testing was first class and some of the ball use in that match situation was very good.

“There were some really good taller lads who were very mobile, and in some ways in the Jimmy Stynes mould.

“There has been a shift in [recruiting focus] by getting big and mobile guys.”

Others to impress were Dublin’s Peadar Byrne and James Madden, who broke the all-time Combine record for the 20m sprint with a time of 2.69 seconds.

Derry’s Oisin Williams and Anton Tohill were prominent too, while Galway hurler Jack Canning was also in attendance, with three of the Irish hopefuls to be invited to the AFL Academy camp at the IMG Academy in Florida next month to train alongside Australia’s elite young players.

Tohill, the son of Derry legend Anthony, said his father’s support has been important to his development.

“Dad has been fabulous, he understands it's a big opportunity for me,” said Tohill.

“He went through all this with Melbourne back in the day, so he's been giving me advice on how to be a professional on and off the pitch.

“He says be aggressive, and when you get knocked down, just get up straight back up.

“’Never give up’ is his message to me.”

There will be 13 Irishmen on AFL lists in 2018 after Carlton signed Galway’s Cillian McDaid on a two-year international rookie deal last month.

KEYWORDS: AFL, Ireland, Mark Keane


By Stephen Barry

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