There appears to be no pause in the number of Irish stars committing their future to the 2021 AFL Women’s season as the total number of Irish players confirmed hits 15.
The uncertainty created by the ongoing pandemic has not deterred Ireland’s footballers who have made themselves available for the February 2021 start.
Mayo legend Cora Staunton will once again sport the orange colours of the Greater Western Sydney Giants after extending her stay at the club. This will be Staunton’s fourth year at the Giants where she has earned herself a stellar reputation. The four-time All-Ireland winner will be looking forward to the new season after missing out on the opening half of the last years competition due to a horrific leg-break which she endured during pre-season.
Staunton will be joined by fellow teammate and Donegal All-Star, Yvonne Bonner. The pair helped the Giants to their first Finals Series last season before it was cut short and will be eager to replicate their strong showing.
Cavan’s Aisling Sheridan and Mayo’s Sarah Rowe have also signed on for another year in Australia as they committed their future to Collingwood. This news comes after Mayo manager Peter Leahy insisted in May, that players who opted to play in the AFLW we could no longer be part of his panel unless they were present for the entire season.
Rowe kicked five goals last season while Sheridan shared the best First-Year Player award in Collingwood’s 2020 season.
Another Green and Red Mayo star, Aileen Gilroy has also agreed to return to Australia with the North Melbourne Kangaroos. Gilroy helped North Melbourne reach the Conference Final before the season was suspended due to the pandemic.
The AFL Women’s clubs appear to have set the start of November as the return date for pre-season. It will be interesting to see if there is some sort of compromise, with AFLW pre-season appearing to clash with the TG4 All-Ireland championships scheduled in from mid-October to December.
Last season, 18 Irish players signed for AFL Women’s clubs. So far 15 players have committed their future and it appears like the upcoming season will equal this tally if not surpass it.
Last week, it was announced that Dublin’s duo of Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy will be heading back down to the Melbourne Demons while Tipperary’s dual-star Orla O’Dwyer will once again kit out for the Brisbane Lions.
Other players to commit are Mayo sisters, Grace and Niamh Kelly who this season will be joined by Aisling McCarthy at the West Coast Eagles after McCarthy was transferred from the Western Bulldogs.
Clare star Ailish Considine has also penned a new deal which will see her stay at the Adelaide Crows.
The full list of the Irish contingent returning down-under to date are as follows:
Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows), Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles), Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles), Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles), Sinead Goldrick (Melbourne Demons), Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne Demons), Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions), Áine Tighe (Fremantle Dockers), Clara Fitzpatrick (St Kilda), Katy Heron (Western Bulldogs), Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney Giants), Yvonne Bonner (Greater Western Sydney Giants), Sarah Rowe (Collingwood), Aisling Sheridan (Collingwood), Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne).