Contributed by: Jake Anson Thursday, October 13 2005 @ 07:38 am ACST
After a long time at the top of the AFL ladder, the Brisbane Lions are rebuilding their aging team. One innovative recruiting strategy involves the Lions hosting trials this week to identify potential Australian footballers within Ireland's Gaelic sports community.
Melbourne's Herald-Sun reports that Lions football manager Graeme Allan is on the ground in Ireland this month checking out young Gaelic footballers prior to the upcoming International Rules Series in Australia. Allan has reportedly shown much interest in County Down's All-Ireland winning minor captain James Coglan and centre-forward ace Martin Clarke. Sean Cavanagh, a 22-year-old key player in the Irish national team, has also been linked to Brisbane.
Stung by likely first-round draft pick Marc Murphy's decision to remain in Melbourne and reject a lucrative offer to join Brisbane under the father-son rule, the Lions are keen to explore unconventional avenues to maintain their standing as an AFL power.
The Lions are adamant that taking an Irish rookie is still a long shot, given the costs associated with such recruiting.
Despite the success of premiership-player Tadhg Kennelly and Brownlow medallist Jim Stynes, the AFL does not support recruiting drives by its clubs in Ireland. The league is happy to support the International Rules Series at the open age and senior levels, but there are rumblings in Ireland about withdrawing from the under-17 series if AFL clubs start plundering local talent.
However, one leading Gaelic Athletic Association official says there is no reason to be nervous.
"In 20 years only three players - Jim Stynes, Sean Wright and Tadhg Kennelly - have stayed in Australia," GAA head of games development Pat Daly said. "That's a very small trickle of talent. I don't believe that it is ever going to change because, bottom line, you're asking an awful lot of a player to go across the world, pick up and excel at a completely new game."
Several Gaelic stars have headed to Australia for trials, but for a variety of reasons have returned home. What makes the latest targets so appealing is their physical attributes - Coglan, a powerfully built teenager, is 190cm tall.